Blackstone closes in on Legoland

The New York-based buyout firm is poised to complete its second major European theme park deal in rapid succession.

Blackstone Group, the New York-based buyout firm, is reported in various media sources to be on the verge of acquiring the Legoland theme park business from Danish toy plastic brick manufacturer Lego Holding in a deal worth around €375 million ($468 million).

The deal would be a swift follow-up to Blackstone’s £102.5 million purchase of UK theme park operator Merlin Entertainments from Hermes Private Equity last month. Merlin, which owns attractions such as the Dungeon and Sea Life Centre chains, was tipped to be the first part of a strategy to build a consolidated European theme park business.

Legoland comprises four theme parks in Denmark, Germany, the UK and the US. The parks comprise Lego brick sculptures, roller coasters, water rides, live shows and other attractions. Lego Holding, which made a net loss of $335 million last year in the face of declining toy sales, put the parks up for sale as part of a restructuring plan. The founding Kristiansen family is expected to retain a stake of between ten percent and 15 percent in the parks as part of any deal.

Blackstone is understood to have beaten off competition from six initial bidders including private equity firms Palamon Capital, Spectrum Equity and Apollo Management. Dubai International Capital, which recently acquired the Tussauds Group from Charterhouse Capital Partners for £800 million, was linked to a possible bid but is believed to have dropped out of the running.

Blackstone, which has declined to comment on Legoland, is currently raising its latest global buyout fund, which has attracted more than $12 billion of interest according to limited partner sources.