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Aquariums: Merlin Buys London Aquarium

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Merlin Entertainments, the UK and Europe’s premier visitor attraction operator, announced today the acquisition of the London Aquarium from County Hall Entertainment. Located in County Hall on the South Bank, next door to Merlin’s most iconic attraction The London Eye, the London Aquarium currently welcomes over 750, 000 visitors a year.

Acknowledged as one of the world’s most knowledgeable and ethical operators of marine attractions, Merlin already owns the largest aquarium brand in the world – SEA LIFE – which welcomes 6m visitors a year through its 28 aquarium and Marine Sanctuary attractions. Indeed it is to SEA LIFE that other organisations often turn when they are looking for support in the rescue and rehabilitation of seals, turtles, dolphins and other marine life. Now Merlin intends to invest GBP5m in further developing both the displays and the infrastructure of the London Aquarium in order to underline its position as a world class aquarium and attraction located in the very heart of the Capital.

Merlin’s marine experts already have plans in place for an extensive development programme designed to increase the interactive elements of the attraction, and to reposition the London Aquarium as a fun learning experience for visitors of all ages. Merlin believes this approach is perfect for the London Aquarium, and sees it as a fantastic showcase for the very best of the SEA LIFE proposition – which has always been to unlock the mysteries of the seas through ‘bite sized’, accessible information, offered throughout a highly immersive attraction.

The attraction will also be an important platform both for SEA LIFE’s significant work in marine breeding and research – most recently its extensive programme on seahorse behaviour; and to promote the company’s highly influential SOS (Save Our Seas) conservation campaigns. The latest of these, launched earlier this month, "SOS Innocent Victims" is a programme designed to highlight issues relating to ‘secondary’ catches in the fishing industry.
In addition to the sale price Merlin has negotiated a 35 year lease on the County Hall site with landlord, Shirayama Shokusan Ltd

Audrey Summers Managing Director of County Hall Entertainment Ltd who owned the London Aquarium said ‘We believe that the sale of the Aquarium is a positive step in the development of an already successful London attraction. County Hall Entertainment will continue to move forward with various new projects that will continue to see London County Hall as a destination of choice in London.’

Commenting, Glenn Earlam, Managing Director of Merlin Entertainments’ Midway brands, which include SEA LIFE, said: "The team and I are delighted to add the London Aquarium to our portfolio of marine attractions. It is a wonderful site – big enough to be awe inspiring, but also very accessible for visitors. There is no one better qualified than Merlin to operate marine attractions; and when we add the SEA LIFE ‘magic’ we believe it will once again quickly become a "must see" attraction for both Londoners, and those visiting the Capital."

The Merlin Entertainments Group is the leading name in location based, family entertainment, which has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last five years. The world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin has 58 attractions and six hotels in 12 countries and across 3 continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 33 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and 13, 000 employees.

Merlin Entertainments operates the following attractions – Sea Life, Madame Tussauds, Legoland, The London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, Legoland Discovery Centres, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Earth Explorer, The Pepsi Globe

Merlin’s SEA LIFE attractions are an ideal, friendly and authoritative guide to the last great frontier…the seas and oceans of the world and their myriad mysterious and amazing inhabitants. Unrivalled display technology, biological expertise and entertainment skills combine to provide seamless journeys through European and tropical waters, and astonishing close encounters with everything from humble shrimps and starfish to seahorses, sharks and stingrays. SEA LIFE champions the cause of marine conservation, through education, awareness and, wherever possible, direct action through its SOS programmes (Save Our Seas) – the most recent of which is SOS Innocent Victims – looking at those creatures caught in fisherman’s nets which are not the primary prey; or which are too small to be valuable but whose unnecessary death impact species’ breeding potential.

County Hall Entertainment  promotes and provides top class entertainment space within County Hall with its unrivalled position alongside the Thames. It has a spectacular range of spaces both internally and externally which it will continue to develop and enhance to create an overall entertainment complex at County Hall

For further information,   Merlin Entertainments, Sally Ann Wilkinson/Penny Roberts, +44(0)20-8899-6110/+44(0)7887-542490; County Hall Entertainment, Trish Washer, +44-207-967-8008

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