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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 July 2007, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Alton Towers sold in 622m deal
Johnny Depp waxwork in Pirates of the Caribbean display at Madame Tussauds in London
Madame Tussauds has been luring in tourists for more than 200 years
The private equity firm behind four of the UK's biggest tourist attractions - including Alton Towers - has sold off their property assets.

Merlin Entertainment has sold the property to entrepreneur Nick Leslau for 622m, and will rent them back under a 35-year lease.

Merlin, owned by US private equity group Blackstone, is to use the funds for investment and to pay off debt.

Other sites being sold are Thorpe Park, Madame Tussauds and Warwick Castle.

"Merlin will continue to operate and invest in these very important businesses exactly as before," the firm added.

Mr Leslau's investment vehicle Prestbury will take over the sites under the agreement.

News of the sale and leaseback deal comes just months after Merlin snapped up the four attractions as part of a 1bn deal.

In March, Merlin bought the Tussauds Group from Dubai International Capital, a move it said created the world's second largest visitor attraction operator after Disney.

Merlin has 51 attractions, in 12 countries, across three continents - Europe, North America and Asia - and employs over 13,000 staff.

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