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05.03.2007 – 12:55

Merlin Entertainments Group Deutschland

The Perfect Combination - Merlin and Tussauds - Creating the World's No 2 Visitor Attraction Company - With Photo

London, New York and Dubai (ots)

Merlin Entertainments Group ("Merlin"), controlled by the 
Blackstone Group ("Blackstone"), and The Tussauds Group ("TTG"), 
controlled by Dubai International Capital LLC ("DIC"), are today 
announcing a partnership of two rapidly growing businesses. This 
brings together some of the biggest brand names in the global theme 
park and attractions market and positions the combined Merlin 
Entertainments Group as the world's second biggest visitor 
attractions operator after Disney.
DIC will receive GBP1,028 million cash and retain a 20% stake in 
the combined company, investing alongside majority owner Blackstone 
and LEGO Holding/KIRKBI Groups.
Transaction highlights:
  • Merlin Entertainments Group and The Tussauds Group combined welcomed over 30 million visitors to their 50 attractions and four hotels in 2006. Globally they operate in 12 countries and across three continents (Europe, North America, Asia); employing over 13,000 staff
  • Combines some of the world's best-known attractions brands, including Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, SEA LIFE, British Airways London Eye, Gardaland
  • Enlarged portfolio of market-leading, resort-led theme parks, including Alton Towers in the UK; Gardaland in Italy; and the four LEGOLAND parks in USA and Europe
  • Expanded management team will see Merlin's Chief Executive, Nick Varney, as CEO of the enlarged group, with Tussauds' Chief Executive Peter Phillipson becoming non-executive Chairman of the enlarged group; Merlin's Andrew Carr as Chief Financial Officer of the enlarged group; and Tussauds' CFO Rob Roger leading the integration project. Other senior appointments will be announced in due course
Commenting on the transaction, Merlin's Chief Executive Nick 
Varney said, "The combination of the Merlin and Tussauds brands, 
people, and operating expertise will create an exciting and 
world-beating global entertainment company. With such iconic brands, 
the expanded Merlin will not only have strong development potential, 
but also an amazingly robust and high value portfolio. Our ambition 
is to build on this to become the world leader in location based, 
branded, family entertainment.
"The deal is a major strategic move for Merlin which has already 
seen the most successful and dynamic growth in the sector over the 
last five years. It not only expands our business both geographically
and demographically, but also underlines our objective to build a 
balanced portfolio. The combined Group also has the resources and 
expertise to focus on accelerating current expansion plans for all 
the brands, particularly in North America."
Commenting, Peter Phillipson, Tussauds' Chief Executive said 
"Under DIC's ownership, we have continued to make significant 
progress against our strategic objectives. We have acquired the 
British Airways London Eye, continued the international roll out of 
Madame Tussauds, and the construction of hotels at Chessington and 
Heide Park is progressing well.
"Joining forces with Merlin represents a very exciting opportunity
to develop these brands as part of the world's second largest visitor
attractions business. The combined group will be in an excellent 
position to continue the development of
The London Eye and our theme parks, as well as accelerate the 
rollout of Madame Tussauds around the world. I am very much looking 
forward to working closely with Nick Varney to build a great business
for our staff, customers and shareholders."
Merlin is majority owned by Blackstone who purchased the company 
for GBP102 million in May 2005. Since then it has worked with 
management to complete the acquisitions of the LEGOLAND chain of 
theme parks (August 2005) and Italy's biggest theme park, Gardaland 
(October 2006).
Commenting, Joseph Baratta, a Blackstone Senior Managing Director,
said "We are proud and pleased to have been able to support Merlin 
management in building this extraordinary business. This situation is
a perfect example of the benefits of private equity ownership. Both 
Merlin and The Tussauds Group have grown significantly as a result of
the support of their private equity owners. Blackstone and DIC have 
made substantial capital investments in these companies over the last
few years and have enabled them to become market leaders. We believe 
the combination of Merlin and The Tussauds Group creates a European 
champion in the global leisure industry. Blackstone and the LEGO 
Holding/KIRKBI Groups welcome our partnership with DIC."
Sameer Al Ansari, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer 
of Dubai International Capital, said: "We are pleased with today's 
announcement. It is in line with DIC's strategy that involves backing
incumbent management and investing in the businesses we acquire. As 
responsible long-term investors, we believe that this is an excellent
deal for Tussauds. Under DIC's ownership and within two years, 
Tussauds business has grown significantly, making the Tussauds brand 
a truly global one.
"This deal is a natural evolution for the Tussauds Group as the 
combined firm will become the world's second largest leisure 
operator. We are looking forward to partnering with Blackstone and 
LEGO Holding/KIRKBI Groups to help the business take the next step in
its development. Tussauds and Merlin are very complementary 
businesses and there is an obvious commercial logic in bringing them 
together. As a reflection of our confidence in this deal, DIC will 
retain 20% of the larger business and we hope to share in the 
benefits of its future profitable growth."
Visit the Merlin website at:
http://www.merlinentertainments.biz/en/press/pictures.aspx.
Broadcast quality footage of Merlin attractions is also available.
More detailed company backgrounders will be supplied on request.
Notes to Editors
1) The major shareholder of the combined company will be 
Blackstone, with DIC, LEGO Holding/KIRKBI and management team 
retaining significant minority investments
2) Debt financing has been committed by Goldman Sachs, HVB and 
Lehman Brothers. The combined group will be refinanced following the 
close of the transaction
3) The transaction is subject to regulatory approval
4) Blackstone was advised by Goldman Sachs
5) Merlin were advised by Lehman Brothers and UBS
6) DIC and Tussauds were advised by Citigroup
About Merlin Entertainments
Merlin Entertainments is a leading visitor attraction operator in 
Europe, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth in the 
sector over the last five years - both through organic roll-out, and 
by strategic acquisition. It operates 38 attractions across 11 
countries under the LEGOLAND, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, SEA LIFE, 
Gardaland, Dungeon, Earth Explorer brands. In 2006 Merlin welcomed 
over 16 million visitors to its attractions; and the company has an 
EBITDA which has risen by over 10 times in the same period (18% in 
2006 alone - excluding acquisition)
Merlin's attractions appeal to a broad customer base of families, 
teens and young adults. The group operates in the following 
countries: UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, 
Italy, Netherlands, Spain, USA.
About The Tussauds Group
The Tussauds Group is one of Europe's leading visitor attraction 
businesses and has achieved compound organic EBITDA growth of over 
14% over the last six years. This has been supplemented by the 
rollout of Madame Tussauds, and acquisitions of The British Airways 
London Eye and Heide Park resulting in EBITDA compound growth of 21%.
In 2006 the Group achieved around GBP100m of EBITDA. Over the period,
under Charterhouse and DIC's ownership, Tussauds has increased 
employment from around 2000 employees to over 6000 employees, and 
consistently improved both staff and customer satisfaction scores. 
Tussauds attracts over 14 million visitors a year to its famous 
attractions around the world.
The Tussauds Group consists of City Centre Attractions (Six Madame
Tussauds - London, New York, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Shanghai, Hong 
Kong; The British Airways London Eye and Warwick Castle); and Theme 
Parks (Alton Towers; Thorpe Park; Chessington World of Adventures in 
the UK and Heide Park in Germany).
About The Blackstone Group
The Blackstone Group, a global private investment and advisory 
firm, was founded in 1985. The firm has raised a total of more then 
$67 billion for alternative asset investing since its formation of 
which approximately $30 billion has been for private equity 
investing. The Private Equity Group is currently investing its fifth 
general private equity fund with commitments of $15.6 billion, and 
has 78 experienced professionals with broad sector expertise. Other 
private equity investments in the leisure sector have included 
Universal Studios in Orlando, and Six Flags Theme Park. Blackstone's 
other core businesses include Private Real Estate Investing, 
Corporate Debt Investing, Hedge Funds, Mutual Fund Management, 
Private Placement, Marketable Alternative Asset Management, and 
Investment Banking Advisory Services
About Dubai International Capital LLC
Established in 2004, Dubai International Capital LLC (DIC) is a 
Dubai-based international investment company. It is a wholly owned 
subsidiary of Dubai Holding. DIC manages an international portfolio 
of diverse assets that provide its stakeholders with value growth, 
diversification, and strategic investments and relationships.
DIC's investments have included: US$1.23 billion acquisition of 
Travelodge (UK), Britain's fastest growing hotel company, US$1 
billion stake in DaimlerChrysler, the world's second largest carmaker
and the US$ 1.2 billion acquisition of Doncasters Group (UK), an 
industrial manufacturing firm that produces precision engineering 
components across various industrial sectors.
DIC is a substantial investor in the Middle East. Investments 
include Ishraq, a US$150 million investment company that was formed 
to bring the Holiday Inn Express brand of hotels to the Gulf 
Co-operation Council (GCC) countries; and MENA Infrastructure Fund, a
US$500 million fund targeting investment opportunities in 
infrastructure projects in the Middle East and North Africa region. 
In 2005, DIC launched Jordan Dubai Capital, a $300 million investment
company that targets private equity opportunities in the Jordanian 
economy.
Additional information about Dubai International Capital is 
available at: www.dubaiic.com
About LEGO Group
The LEGO Group is a privately held, family-owned company, based in
Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one 
of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children, 
employing approximately 4,500 people globally. The LEGO Group is 
committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative 
abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries.
LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group. (c)2006 The 
LEGO Group.
Note to Editors:
A picture accompanying this release is available from the European
Pressphoto Agency (EPA) at http://www.epa-photos.com
For further information contact:
Merlin Entertainments, +44-1202-666-900, Nick Varney, Chief 
Executive; Penny King /Sally Ann Wilkinson, +44-20-8948-4225 or 
+44-7887-542-490/ +44-7774-415-372; The Blackstone Group, 
+44-20-7451-4276, Joseph Baratta; The Tussauds Group, 
+44-20-7404-5959, Peter Phillipson, Chief Executive, Robert Roger, 
Chief Financial Officer; Citigroup, +44-20-7986-7012, Anthony Gutman;
Brunswick, +44-20-7404-5959, Simon Sporborg / Jemma Hill; Dubai 
International Capital LLC, Hazar Al-Zaki, +971-4-362-1840; Brunswick,
+44-20-7404-5959, Craig Breheny / Ash Spiegelberg;
Please note:
For interview requests with Merlin Entertainments Group please 
contact Penny King/Sally Ann Wilkinson on +44-20-8948-4225 or 
+44-7887-542-490 / +44-7774-415-372 respectively.
Photographs of Merlin key personnel and the attractions are available
from Penny King or visit the Merlin website at: 
http://www.merlinentertainments.biz/en/press/pictures.aspx.
Broadcast quality footage of Merlin attractions is also available.  
More detailed company backgrounders will be supplied on request.

Original content of: Merlin Entertainments Group Deutschland, transmitted by news aktuell