Madame Tussauds and a raft of major tourist attractions - including Alton Towers and Warwick Castle - changed hands yesterday in an £800 million deal with an investment firm controlled by the government of Dubai.
Venture capital group Charterhouse Capital Partners agreed to dispose of Tussauds Group after six years of ownership in which the business expanded worldwide.
In the UK, Tussauds operates the London waxworks museum as well as the theme parks of Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park.
In addition to Warwick Castle, the group also has a one-third stake in the British Airways London Eye, which it operates.
Overseas Tussauds also has attractions in New York, Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Hong Kong, plus Heide Park in Germany.
The new owner of the group is Dubai International Capital, a government-backed private equity group set up in October with an eye to private equity investments in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The focus of Dubai International's activities is on larger buyouts, development capital deals and funds.
It has pledged to retain the existing management team and further expand the business.
The deal will net a combined windfall of £30 million for 70 Tussauds managers who own a 15 per cent stake in the group.
Three senior directors, including chief executive Peter Phillipson, are expected to reinvest at least half their stake in the newly-owned business.
Mohammed Al Gergawi, chairman of Dubai International Capital, said: "This transaction demonstrates our determination to become a serious investor in the private equity market and draws on our existing management skills in the global leisure sector."
Sameer Al Ansari, chief executive of DIC, added: "We believe we can assist Tussauds further to build its global brand in line with our investment strategy of identifying assets where we can contribute to strong future growth. We look forward to a rewarding and successful partnership."
Mr Phillipson said: " Tussauds has been transformed over the past four years to become Europe's number one visitor attraction business.
"We now look forward to working closely with Dubai International Capital to accelerate our growth plans, explore new opportunities and create even more exciting experiences for our 14 million guests."
Tussauds originated in 1802 when Madame Tussaud brought her waxwork collection to London.
The attraction is currently enjoying a revival in popularity because of more interactive displays featuring the likes of Kylie Minogue and David Beckham.
Mr Phillipson said there were plans to look for a sixth city centre site as part of growth plans for Tussauds under the new owners.
Eric Nicoli, who will remain as non-executive chairman of Tussauds, added: "Under a strong and talented executive management team, Tussauds has become an internationally respected leisure business.
" I look forward to seeing the partnership with Dubai International Capital develop successfully."