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More heat behind the Merlin/Busch takeover rumors

By Robert Niles
Published: August 4, 2008 at 2:18 PM
Lots of publications are jumping over the Telegraph's report that Merlin Entertainments Group stakeholder The Blackstone Group is considering a play for Busch Entertainment Corp., the theme park arm of the Anheuser-Busch, said to be for sale after the takeover of the brewer by Belgian conglomerate InBev.

This should be nothing new to TPI readers. Remember, we fingered Merlin as the most likely suitor back in June. The Telegraph story suggests that Blackstone might make a play independent of Merlin, then possibly merge BEC with Merlin... or even Universal Orlando, of which Blackstone owns half.

I can't see the UO deal happening, mostly because of the NBC Universal/GE involvement. But, if InBev doesn't sell the parks to the Busch family, then Merlin/Blackstone remains a definite candidate to obtain Busch Gardens and SeaWorld.

Readers' Opinions

From Alicia W on August 4, 2008 at 3:48 PM
Blackstone's agreement with Universal bars them and any company that they are affiliated with from owning a theme park in Florida. Also, if you look at Blackstone's performance and balance sheet, while they COULD do the deal, the fact that GE would sue the hell out of them, plus finding the debt, might be a deterrent.
From Robert Niles on August 4, 2008 at 5:53 PM
Well, game, set and match there, it would appear....
From Ted Heumann on August 5, 2008 at 12:12 PM
BUT does that agreement bar Merlin??

I think Merlin would be a good match. They seem to have done a VERY good job with Legoland California.
They have spent some capital lately, have done a lot of advertising and have executed VERY well.

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