Lego Co. is cashing in some of the equity of its Legoland parks to focus on its core products of plastic building blocks and related toys.
Lego of Billund announced July 13 that it formed a new business with Blackstone Capital Partners and Merlin Entertainments to own and manage its four play lands.
Lego sold its parks to Blackstone for 375 million euros ($457.5 million), but Lego and a related company will retain a 30 percent stake in the new business, called Merlin Entertainment Group.
Blackstone Capital Partners is an affiliate of New York-based investment firm Blackstone Group. Blackstone Group acquired Merlin Entertainments of Poole, England, in May. Blackstone's interests include the majority of plastic container maker Graham Packaging Co. LP of York, Pa.
Merlin runs 28 other attraction parks in Europe based on sea life and other themes.
``The toy market has been declining for some time and is extremely competitive,'' Lego owner Kirk Kristiansen said in a news release. Lego is reducing its position in Legoland parks to put more emphasis on core products, he said.
Legoland parks feature buildings, figures and environments based on Lego interlocking, injection molded bricks and related parts. The original park, built in 1968 in Billund, contains 20 million bricks. The Gunzburg, Germany, park contains the most pieces, more than 50 million. Legoland also has parks in Windsor, England, and Carlsbad, Calif.
Last year about 5.7 million visitors in total went through the parks.