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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blackstone Buys Madame Tussauds

LONDON -- Blackstone Group agreed to buy Tussauds Group for £1 billion ($1.9 billion), combining the operator of London's Madame Tussauds waxworks museum with the Legoland theme parks.

Blackstone's Merlin Entertainments Group will acquire Tussauds from Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm that acquired the waxworks two years ago, the company said in a statement Monday. Dubai will receive a 20 percent stake in the combined business.

The enlarged company will operate 50, sites from the London Eye Ferris wheel to Italy's Gardaland theme parks, making it the world's second-biggest operator of attractions and theme parks in terms of visitors after Walt Disney.

"It'll allow us to become a major European force and compete on the world stage like the really big American companies such as Disney and Universal,'' Merlin chief executive officer Nick Varney said in a conference call with journalists.

Tussauds traces its roots to 1802, when Madame Tussaud brought her waxwork collection to London, and draws more than 14 million visitors to its attractions annually. Its London museum is home to models of celebrities including David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Kylie Minogue.

Based in Chessington in southern England, Tussauds also operates British theme parks such as Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures.

Dubai is selling two years after it bought Tussauds for £800 million ($1.5 billion) from London-based buyout firm Charterhouse Capital Partners.