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CARLSBAD, CA-After denying the imminent deal last month, Danish toymaker the Lego Group has officially sold its four Legoland theme parks to New York-based Blackstone Group for $457 million. Blackstone will own 70% of the merged company, while Lego Group will own the remaining 30%. Blackstone will take over Legoland’s three parks in Europe and its Carlsbad site and merge them with Merlin Entertainment, which it acquired in May for $187 million. The parks are expected to attract some 12 million visitors a year.”The new company will provide the investment and expertise the parks need, in both product and marketing, to take them to the next level,” says Nick Varney, chief executive of the newly combined Merlin Entertainments company. Besides its Carlsbad location, Lego has theme parks in Billund, Denmark; Guenzburg, Germany; and Windsor, England. Those parks attract more than five million visitors a year. For Blackstone, the acquisition represents a further expansion of the private equity firm’s theme park portfolio. The firm also owns an interest in the operation of Universal Studios, Orlando.The sale allows the Lego Group to get back to its core business—developing plastic bricks for children. Owned by the Kristiansen family, Lego suffered more than $312 million in net losses last year.The company has said it wants to use the sale of the theme parks to free up cash and lower the firm’s overhead. The negative ledger was only the fourth loss in the company’s 72-year history.

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