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Park's future remains up in the air

(Keystone)

A Zurich businessman has withdrawn his bid to buy the financially stricken Mystery Park in the resort of Interlaken, leaving a big question mark over its future.

Entrepreneur Jakob Dietiker had been due to sign a SFr16 million ($13 million) deal on Friday but pulled out at the last minute, claiming his acquisition plans had fallen too much in the public spotlight.

The last-minute decision means that the theme park in the Bernese Oberland will close at the end of the summer season until further notice.

Dietiker stepped in last month with his bid to save the park, which is based on the "mysteries of the world" and the extraterrestrial theories of Swiss author Erich von Däniken.

"Jakob Dietiker has immediately terminated the contract before even signing it," Kurt Stöckli, the lawyer handling the proceedings, told journalists in Bern.

Stöckli cited Dietiker as saying the deal had put him under pressure, and there were uncertainties over whether all the necessary conditions were in place for a successful bid.

"The latest news is disappointing, especially as we were close to a solution," said the lawyer, adding that there were no other bids on the horizon.

Dietiker has provided SFr1 million to cover staff salaries until the end of November.

New investors

The search for new investors continues, however, and there is hope that one of the park's biggest shareholders, Franz Gyger, might be interested.

"The necessary assurances and letters of intent still need to be clarified, though," Stöckli explained.

Von Däniken, who launched his project in 1997, had difficulties getting his "dream" off the ground and raising the SFr86 million for the park, which delayed its opening on a former military airfield until May 2003.

At first visitors were attracted in large numbers to the country's first theme park, which picked up the 2003 "Milestone", Switzerland's top prize for excellence and innovation in tourism.

But the following year managers were forced to lower their sights, forecasting a minimum of 270,000 visitors by the end of the second full year.

This was a considerable drop from the 440,000 paying customers who came in the first 12 months. Last year only 225,000 people visited the theme park.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The park, which is divided into seven themed pavilions, is based on the "mysteries of the world" and the extraterrestrial theories of Swiss author Erich von Däniken.

These "mysteries" include the enigma surrounding the Egyptian pyramids, the mysterious figures of Nazca in Peru and Nasa's quest for extraterrestrial life.

He has sold more than 60 million books on unexplained phenomena such as flying saucers.

The pyramids, temples and other pavilions at the park are arranged in a circular manner to resemble planets revolving round the sun.

Visitors move from "mystery" to "mystery" via glass corridors connecting the buildings.

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