Merlin boss Nick Varney to retire after 23 years at helm


Chief executive of company behind Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and Legoland stepping down after 23 years at helm

The chief executive of the company behind Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and Legoland is stepping down after 23 years at the helm.

Merlin Entertainments said Nick Varney planned to retire after serving 12 months’ notice, during which time the board will find a successor. 

Thinking big: Nick Varney turned the Legoland owner into an entertainment giant

Merlin was formed in 1999 in a £47m management buyout of Vardon Entertainments. Varney has turned it into one of the world’s biggest entertainment groups with 140 attractions, 23 hotels and six holiday villages. 

But Varney’s record was marred by a rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers in 2015, in which five people were seriously injured, including two women who had to have a leg amputated. 

Merlin was fined £5m. Merlin was taken private in 2019 in a £6bn deal by Blackstone, Kirkbi, which owns the Lego empire, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Last year it made £376m profit.

Varney said: ‘I love the people, the attractions, the visitors and the industry and I am proud to have played my part as we built Merlin into an incredible business.’

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