Blackstone-backed park gets approval

Merlin Entertainment, the theme park operator acquired by The Blackstone Group for $2.5bn in 2005, is to develop a Legoland park in Florida.

A theme park operator backed by New York-based private equity giant The Blackstone Group has had its plans for a Legoland theme park in Florida approved.

According to an announcement made by governor of Florida Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet, Merlin Entertainments, the operator purchased by Blackstone’s private equity business for $2.5 billion in 2005, has been granted consent to develop the family theme park on 150 acres of land at Cypress Gardens in the Polk County area of the state.

Legoland

Legoland would be the latest of a string of theme parks to be developed in the state which has long housed other tourist attractions such as Disney World and Universal Studios.

The park has been slated for a 2011 opening and is expected to cost $300 million over the next five years to develop. It would be the fifth Legoland theme park to have opened globally.

Blackstone purchased Merlin Entertainments from Hermes Private Equity in May 2005. The firm completed the acquisition on behalf of its Blackstone Capital Partners IV fund, which closed on $6.45 billion in 2002.

The firm was able to merge Merlin and Legoland shortly afterwards when it bought a controlling position in the latter from Lego group and Danish finance and investment company, Kirkhi, for €375 million on behalf of the same fund.