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Merlin Entertainments stories

Merlin Entertainments

Merlin Entertainments is one of the world’s largest leisure companies, a major operator of theme parks, museums and themed entertainment venues.

The company was formed in 1998 following a management buyout of UK company Vardon Attractions. In 2005, Merlin was acquired by The Blackstone Group, which went on to purchase The Tussauds Group two years later.

Merlin Entertainments went public under the ticker symbol MERL and was listed on the London Stock Exchange from 2013 until November 2019, when the firm was once again made private by a consortium.

Based in Poole, England, the company has been managed by CEO Nick Varney since it was founded. In 2022, Varney announced his retirement from the role.

Merlin Entertainments’ theme parks in the UK include Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park. Other parks include Germany’s Heidi Park and Italy’s Gardaland.

A series of Lego-themed parks, stylised as LEGOLAND, started with the 1968 opening of Legoland Billund in Denmark. The family-friendly theme park features brick and playset-themed attractions, aimed at Lego’s core audience of children and toddlers. Nearly three decades later, Legoland parks in Windsor, UK and California, US opened. The brand has since expanded to Germany, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the UAE.

Merlin Entertainments has used IPs at other properties, including a Dreamworks property in London, and Florida’s Peppa Pig Theme Park.

Merlin Entertainments also owns a number of ‘Midway Attractions’ including the SEA LIFE chain, a series of aquarium and conservation sites found around the world, originating from Vardon Attractions.

The first Madame Tussauds site opened at Marylebone Road in London, founded by the titular Marie Tussaud. The brand now has sites in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia.

The Dungeons is a series of educational walkthrough tours with live actors, based on the renowned local history and stories of major tourist hotspots.

A number of landmarks are also operated by Merlin Entertainments, which was behind the opening of The London Eye and the multi-million-pound renovation of The Blackpool Tower.

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