An investor group that includes the family behind the Lego empire agreed to buy Merlin Entertainments Plc, the operator of Legoland resorts and Madame Tussauds wax museums, for about 4.8 billion pounds ($6.1 billion).
Merlin investors would receive 455 pence per share. That represents a premium of 15 percent over its closing price of 395 pence Thursday. The deal is backed by Blackstone Group LP, Canadian pension fund CPPIB and the Danish family that controls Lego, the bidders said in a statement Friday.
Investors had pushed the company to consider a buyout, saying it would be worth more in private hands. ValueAct Capital, which also lobbied for change at Britain’s Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, said last month in an open letter to Merlin’s board that it needs to spend more on new hotels and Legoland parks and that’s hard to do as a public company.
Merlin Entertainments has struggled since it was fined 5 million pounds following a 2015 accident at its Alton Towers theme park in the U.K. that injured 16 people, while the Brexit vote a year later hampered its growth potential. In addition to operating Legoland and Madame Tussauds, it oversees attractions such as Peppa Pig World of Play and the Coca-Cola London Eye.
Takeover speculation has helped propel Merlin’s stock in recent months. Shares of the Dorset, England-based company were up 24% this year through Thursday’s close. Blackstone previously owned Merlin before a 2013 IPO.
More public companies have been going private, fueled by buyout firms’ growing cash reserves. Last year, the number of public-to-private deals hit its highest in more than a decade, according to Bain & Co.’s annual private equity report.
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