With 60 attractions and 38.5m visitors in 2009, Merlin Entertainments is now Europe’s largest, and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator after Disney. Operating from headquarters in Poole, Dorset, Merlin’s portfolio includes 27 Sea Life attractions, four Legoland parks, three Legoland Discovery Centres, nine Madame Tussauds, and five Dungeons. The company is also behind much-loved British attractions such as the London Eye, Alton Towers and Warwick Castle. Nick Varney, chief executive, has overseen three buyouts since 1998, including the £103m one in 2005 backed by Blackstone, the private-equity firm. Merlin’s profits grew 71% a year, from £35.9m in 2006 to £178.2m in 2009 and the company is still interested in a stock-exchange listing.
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