THE boss of Poole-based tourist attraction operator Merlin Entertainments has been named CEO of the Year in the South West.

Nick Varney was awarded the title by the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) and now goes on to the national final on June 18.

Merlin operates a host of leading tourist attractions, including Madame Tussauds, Legoland, Alton Towers, the Blackpool Tower, Thorpe Park and Sea Life.

Merlin took three prizes in the BVCA Management Team Awards, which celebrate UK businesses backed by private equity and venture capital.

Merlin was majority-owned by Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners until it floated on the London Stock Exchange last November.

The other titles it collected were Exit Management Team of the Year for its stock market launch last year and the Community and Environmental Action Award for its social responsibility policies.

Nick Varney was named CEO of Merlin in 1999.

He was previously MD of Vardon Attractions, where he led a management buyout to form Merlin Entertainments. In 2005, he initiated the process which led to the company’s acquisition by Blackstone.