Madame Tussauds owner Merlin to be bought by Lego family and Blackstone

Britain’s Merlin Entertainments is the owner of popular tourist attractions Madame Tussauds and the London Eye. (AFP)
Updated 28 June 2019

Madame Tussauds owner Merlin to be bought by Lego family and Blackstone

Madame Tussauds owner Merlin said on Friday it had agreed to be acquired by the investment vehicle of Lego’s founding family and private equity firm Blackstone Group LP in a deal valuing the company and its debt at nearly $7.6 billion (£6 billion).

The deal to buy Merlin Entertainments, which also operates Legoland theme parks around the world, values Merlin shares at 455 pence each, giving the firm an enterprise value of £5.905 billion.

The move will be one of the biggest private equity deals in Europe in recent years, and comes as buyout firms are flush with record amounts of cash to invest.

Merlin will be 50 percent owned by Kirkbi, the private investment company of Lego’s Kirk Kristiansen family, and 50 percent owned by Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

“Following an unsolicited approach by a consortium of investors, and after rejecting a number of their proposals, the Merlin Independent Directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realize value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation,” Merlin Chairman John Sunderland said in a statement.

“We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders.”

The deal is expected to complete in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The deal comes after activist investor ValueAct Capital last month urged Merlin, which also operates Legoland and the Alton Towers theme park in Britain, to take itself private.

In an open letter, ValueAct said at the time that the level of investment needed in the company meant it would be better off returning to private ownership.

A source familiar with the matter said that the initial, unsolicited offer from the consortium valued the firm at 425 pence, and discussions about a takeover predated the ValueAct letter.


Judge lifts ban on ‘tell-all’ book by Donald Trump’s niece

Updated 02 July 2020

Judge lifts ban on ‘tell-all’ book by Donald Trump’s niece

  • Mary Trump dubs the US president ‘the world’s most dangerous man’
  • The president’s brother Robert Trump had asked for the restraining order

WASHINGTON: An appeals court judge in New York has lifted a temporary ban on the publication of a potentially explosive “tell-all” book by President Donald Trump’s niece, court documents showed.
The ruling issued Wednesday allows publisher Simon & Schuster to print and distribute the 240-page book by Mary Trump, who dubs the US president “the world’s most dangerous man.”
It would be the latest bombshell memoir to dish dirt on the leader after former aide John Bolton’s book, which described Trump as corrupt and incompetent, was cleared for publication last week.
The president’s brother Robert Trump had asked for the restraining order, arguing that Mary was violating a non-disclosure agreement signed in 2001 after the settlement over the estate of Fred Trump — the father of Donald and Robert and of Mary’s father Fred Trump Jr.
Judge Alan Scheinkman postponed addressing whether the author had violated the agreement preventing her from revealing family secrets by writing the book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
Nevertheless Simon & Schuster “is not a party to the agreement,” so the block of their publication of the book “is vacated,” he ruled.
In the book, Mary, a clinical psychologist, recounts what she witnessed of the “toxic family” in the home of her grandparents, according to her publisher.
“According to the plaintiff, Ms. Trump has stated that (the) book contains an ‘insider’s perspective’ of ‘countless holiday meals,’ ‘family interactions,’ and ‘family events,’” Scheinkman’s ruling said.
The Daily Beast has reported the book will reveal that Mary Trump was the crucial source for explosive New York Times reporting on Trump’s finances, which suggested the billionaire paid little in tax for decades.
In a statement, Mary Trump’s attorney Ted Boutrous said the lifting of the prior restraint against the publisher was “very good news.”
“We look forward to filing our brief tomorrow (Thursday) in the trial court explaining why the same result is required as to Ms. Trump, based on the First Amendment and basic contract law,” he said.
Mary Trump’s legal team said they were hoping for a July 10 hearing, which will most likely take place virtually.
Last week a judge refused to block the release of Bolton’s book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” saying it was too late for the restraining order sought by the Trump administration.
Trump has characterized the portrait of 17 months up close with the leader, until Bolton was fired in September, as “fiction.”
Other books written about the president include journalist Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” a behind-the-scenes account of Trump’s chaotic early days in the White House, which sold more than four million copies worldwide.
Trump dismissed that book as “full of lies.”