Apax & JPMorgan Sell Merlin –

Apax Partners and JPMorgan Partners have sold their stake in Merlin Entertainments in a secondary buyout backed by Hermes Private Equity. The deal was valued at GBP72.5 million.

Merlin Entertainments operates attraction parks and owns The Dungeons, Sea Life Centers and Seal Sanctuaries, which are popular in the U.K.

The business was formed in 1998 when Apax and JPMorgan Partners acquired the attractions division of Vardon in a GBP47 million deal. The group’s acquisition included 23 Sea Life Centers and the London and York Dungeons. Following the disposal of its attractions business Vardon was renamed Cannons and was then bought out by the Royal Bank Private Equity in 2001.

Under Apax and JPMorgan Partners’ ownership, Merlin has doubled its Dungeon chain to four sites, with the latest opening in Hamburg, Germany. The Sea Life brand has been relaunched with eight smaller U.K. sites sold and new centers opened in Europe including Disneyland Paris, Helsinki, Dortmund and most recently Berlin. Merlin now has 24 major attractions across Europe welcoming five million visitors annually. As a result the company’s EBITDA has risen by 34 percent.

“Hermes Private Equity is a very suitable partner to build on the company’s success and ensure our continued expansion,” Merlin executive Nick Varney said.