Tussauds waxed up for sale by Pearson

Media group ready to shed theme park division

LONDON — British media group Pearson has put its theme park subsidiary the Tussauds Group up for sale, after receiving expressions of interest from several possible buyers.

The move is part of Pearson chief exec Marjorie Scardino’s ongoing effort to focus the conglom more tightly around its core media businesses, which include international TV production and book publishing.

According to a Pearson statement, the company has already received expressions of “keen interest” from “a number of potential buyers.” Pearson has appointed Lazard Bros. to advise in the sale process.

Rank, U interested

Possible bidders mooted include British leisure group Rank and Universal, which already this week announced a deal to acquire the most of Tussauds’ 40.5% stake in the Spanish theme park Port Aventura.

Tussauds, named after the world-famous London waxwork museum Madame Tussauds that is the group’s flagship attraction, includes the British amusement parks Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures, and the London Planetarium.

New versions of Madame Tussauds are planned in New York and Las Vegas, and the group has also conditionally agreed to buy Thorpe Park near London.

Could go for $650 mil

Analysts estimate that the division could be sold for up to £400 million ($650 million), although some put the value as low as $385 million.

In 1997 the Tussauds attractions generated sales of $175 million on total admissions of 9.5 million. Profits before interest, tax and depreciation were $57 million.

“The Tussauds Group is a great business with unique assets, strong management and a talented and committed work force,” Scardino said. “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.”