Financier Joseph Baratta, boss of American private equity group Blackstone, aims to create one of Europe's largest leisure groups. The idea began last year when he bought Merlin Entertainments, owner of the London Dungeon, and a handful of Sea Life centres and seal sanctuaries. Then Blackstone bankrolled the acquisition of Legoland's four Lego theme parks, and there are plans to expand Earth Explorer, a theme park designed to help children understand the world's natural forces. Baratta also hints that he is looking at a European aquariums business and Blackstone is busy with Center Parcs, which it took private in a £250m deal earlier this year. The holiday village group is owned separately from Merlin, but Baratta says the two will co-operate in areas like cross-marketing. The Mail on Sunday 11/06/06 (Financial Mail) page 6