Merlin promotes senior exec to COO for Midway& Resort Theme Parks

Merlin Entertainments, Europe’s largest and the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, has today announced the promotion of its Senior Executive, Fiona Eastwood, to Chief Operating Officer for both Midway attractions and Resort Theme Parks.

Fiona will begin the new position with immediate effect and her new role will see her take on the additional management and strategic growth of Merlin’s popular Resort theme parks both across the UK, including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Warwick Castle, as well as in Europe, including Gardaland in Italy and Heide Park in Germany.

She will continue to oversee Midway brands such as SEA LIFE aquariums, Madame Tussauds, Dungeons, as well as iconic destinations such the London Eye, the Blackpool Ballroom and Tower, and LEGO Discovery Centres.

Fiona has been instrumental in the expansion of the Midway portfolio, overseeing more than 125 attractions across the globe. In the last year, this has included key acquisitions such as the Coex Aquarium in Korea, This is Holland in Amsterdam and the upcoming day-to-day running and management of Cadbury World in Birmingham.

Fiona was previously Chief Operating Officer of Global Midway Attractions since 2019, having joined Merlin as Global Marketing Director, Midway Attractions in 2015, where she was responsible for driving all aspects of brand strategy and marketing across a global portfolio of Midway brands.

Prior to Merlin, Fiona worked at BBC Worldwide, where she was responsible for strategic planning, brand management, market research, ancillary revenues, and branded partnerships across Nordics, CEMA, Asia and Latin America. Previously, she held roles as Managing Director, Consumer Products and Commercial Director for one of the BBC’s biggest international brands, Doctor Who.

CEO Scott O’Neil commented on the promotion, “I am thrilled that Fiona has been promoted to this new wider remit. Fiona brings with her a passion for the business alongside outstanding expertise in leading brands and IPs which is second to none.

'I’m looking forward to working with her and the wider team to deliver on the exciting growth strategy we have across both the Midway and our Resort Theme Park portfolio. Fiona has built a reputation throughout the live attractions and theme parks industry as a world class leader, extraordinary business driver and respected developer of a diverse and talented people first culture.

'Under Fiona's expanded leadership, Merlin will continue its focus on efficiently building world class attractions with the best IP in the world, an obsession on the guest experience and a laser focus on effective marketing at our core. Throughout Merlin she is celebrated for her work ethic, drive and people-first focus, and her continued ascent will not be a surprise to anyone who has the privilege to work with her.”

Fiona added, “I’m passionate about making Merlin the greatest place to work. I will continue to bring my curiosity and love for this business and combined that with a commitment to delivering a diverse, inclusive, and engaged culture, that empowers teams to deliver joyful guest experiences and achieve brilliant results.

'We have the very best set of current brands to build and develop and an amazing pipeline of IP that will transform our growth strategy across both our Midway and Resort divisions. I’m looking forward to working closely again with Ian and Sabrina (UK and European RTP leads) alongside their excellent teams and I can’t wait to get out to meet the teams in person.

'I also recognise my important role as a female leader, both here at Merlin but also across the attractions industry. I have found that being my genuine self, combined with hard work and a focus on getting the very best from people is what makes the true difference.”

Eastwood will work closely with current Managing Director of Resort Theme Parks, Ian Crabbe, who will continue to work across the Resort Theme Parks before his planned retirement in 2024. Crabbe will also take on an additional championing role to help support Merlin’s talent development programme for those employees’ seeking careers as attraction operators or General Managers.