Merlin Entertainments may not be a household name, but you would probably recognize some of the destinations that it owns around the world, which include the London Eye and many global outposts of Legoland and Madame Tussaud’s. The British company is reportedly interested in buying SeaWorld, but may only want to buy the parks that don’t feature cetacean-based entertainment.
Tourism is down in Merlin’s home country because of recent terrorist attacks in London and in Manchester, and expanding its properties in the United States would be a good move. In addition to the American Madame Tussaud’s museums and Legoland parks, it owns Sea Life aquariums across the country.
Bloomberg Business points out that while SeaWorld’s investors would probably just like to sell the whole business and call it a day, it’s likely that Merlin Entertainments is only interested in purchasing the Busch Gardens parks, and not the rest of SeaWorld Entertainment.
Merlin has a specific policy against keeping dolphins and whales in captivity, which would mean even more drastic changes to SeaWorld, even after the parks ended its signature orca shows and breeding programs. It’s most likely that it would only bid on the Busch Gardens parks for an estimated $1 billion.
Other attractions that are part of SeaWorld Entertainment and that don’t feature dolphins or whales include Sesame Place in Pennsylvania, and Adventure Island, Water Country USA, and Aquatica water parks across the country.
The two companies are connected: The private equity firm that acquired SeaWorld four years ago previously owned Merlin Entertainment.
Busch Gardens began as a beer-promoting subsidiary of the Anheuser-Busch brewery, which served free beer to guests of legal drinking age. After its merger with InBev in 2008, the beer company left the amusement park business, selling its parks to Orlando neighbor SeaWorld.