UK freeholds sold to reduce debt
Merlin Entertainments has sold but will continue to operate some of its most famous UK attractions in a deal that will help the group relieve some of the debt it acquired when buying the properties earlier this year.
Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussuads in London have been bought for £622 million (€915m/$1.25bn) by the investment group Prestbury, which will rent them back to Merlin under a 35-year lease.
The four properties were formerly part of the Tussauds Group, which Merlin acquired for £1 billion back in March. Merlin retains the freehold on former Tussauds attractions including the London Eye and Chessington World of Adventures in England and Heide Park in Germany.
As well as paying back debt, Merlin, which is owned by the private equity Blackstone Group, also plans to use the proceeds of the sale to Prestbury to invest in the attractions.
Prestbury has completed similar sale and leaseback deals with the operators of hotels, pubs and other hospitality outlets.