Theme park and resort operator Merlin Entertainments has appointed longtime sports and media executive Scott O’Neil as its CEO effective Tuesday. O’Neil replaces Nick Varney, who announced in April that he was retiring from the company he launched in 1999.

The 52-year-old O’Neill was the CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which runs both the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, before leaving the position in June 2021. He also served as president of Madison Square Garden Sports, where he ran the business operations for the NBA’s New York Knicks, NHL’s New York Rangers and the New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Merlin operates, among other attractions, 10 Legoland resort theme parks and hotels and Staffordshire, England-based theme park Alton Towers. The company also plans to expand throughout the United States and Asia, including opening three Legoland resorts in China.

New Merlin Entertainments CEO Scott O’Neil has worked extensively in sports (Merlin Entertainments)