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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 11:30 GMT
Tussauds firm bought in 1bn deal
Tussauds model of Kate Moss
Tussauds wants to open new sites around the world
The company behind the Madame Tussauds and London Eye tourist attractions has been bought in a 1bn deal by Legoland-owner Merlin Entertainments.

Merlin said its acquisition of the Tussauds Group would make it the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator after Disney.

Tussauds also operates the Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures theme parks.

Merlin and Tussauds together attracted 30 million visitors during 2006.

The two firms operate in 12 countries and employ more than 13,000 staff.

Growth plans

Merlin is majority-owned by private equity group Blackstone and operates 38 attractions worldwide including brands such as Legoland, Sea Life, Gardaland and Earth Explorer.

London Eye
The London Eye has proved a big hit with tourists

Merlin has bought the Tussauds Group from Dubai International Capital (DIC) for 1.03bn, and under the terms of the deal DIC will retail a 20% stake in the combined company.

"The combination of the Merlin and Tussauds brands, people, and operating expertise will create an exciting and world-beating global entertainment company," said Merlin's chief executive Nick Varney.

Tussauds Group said the deal would enable it to speed up its growth plans.

"The combined group will be in an excellent position to continue the development of the London Eye and our theme parks, as well as accelerate the rollout of Madame Tussauds around the world," said Peter Phillipson, Tussauds' chief executive.

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