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Tuesday, June 23, 1998 Published at 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK

Business: The Company File

Pearson to sell Tussauds - at the right price

Alton Towers looks like being sold off as part of the deal

Media and entertainment giant Pearson is considering selling off its Tussauds division which includes Alton Towers, but only if the price is right.

The company has confirmed it has received offers from a number of potential buyers "expressing a keen interest".

[ image: Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum could also go under the hammer]
Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum could also go under the hammer
Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino said Tussauds was a "great business", but might not fit into the company's "sharpened" portfolio of media interests which includes The Financial Times, The Economist and Thames TV.

But she stressed the division would only go at the right price.

She said: "The Tussauds group is a great business with unique assets, strong management and a talented and committed workforce.

"But as we sharpen Pearson's focus on to a tighter group of media businesses, we have decided that this is a good time to test whether Tussauds might be even more valuable to a new owner.

The BBC's Mary Gahan says there are already a number of buyers in the wings
"They will have to offer a good price to convince us that it is."

The Tussauds Group last year posted sales of £107m and pre-tax profits of £35m.

The group includes Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum which has new sites planned for New York and Las Vegas.

It also includes the UK's number one tourist attraction Alton Towers theme park, Chessington World of Adventures, London Planetarium and London' s Rock Circus.

The division also owns Warwick Castle and has agreed to buy Thorpe Park in Surrey.

Balancing the books

Pearson has been expected to put Tussauds on the block to try to cut debt created by its recent $3.6bn buy of Simon & Schuster's educational publishing unit from Viacom.

The group could fetch a price of £350-400m from a British or US buyer, according to analysts.

Market speculation has cited British financial buyers, as well as leisure firm Rank Group and US groups such as Time Warner as potential suitors for Tussauds.

Pearson said it had appointed its part-owned Lazards Brothers investment bank to advise on the sale.

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