SeaWorld without Shamu? Or could a clash of corporate cultures keep Merlin out of a Busch theme park deal?
Published: September 23, 2009 at 10:43 AM
Merlin is the theme park company that operates Legoland and the SeaLife Aquariums, and is 70% owned by Blackstone Group, the reported suitor of the Busch Entertainment Corp. theme parks.
Merlin's policy seems at odds with current SeaWorld operations, including the use of marine mammals in shows.
Dolphins perform in the 'Blue Horizons' show at SeaWorld Orlando.
Would this conflict prevent Blackstone from using Merlin as the investment vehicle to acquire BEC? If so, that would mean the loss of some interesting synergies, such as between SeaWorld and Legoland in San Diego County, as well as a potential marriage between Lego and Sesame Street in the Merlin and BEC parks.
Even an independent investment by Blackstone in BEC could prove troublesome, if there is significant support within Blackstone's management for Merlin's way of handling marine mammals. SeaWorld without Shamu would be a very different company than what today's consumers expect.
Update: The comments keep getting better. Now, we've got word of a non-compete clause that Blackstone and Universal signed, which would keep Blackstone from buying or investing in any other theme parks in the state of Florida (e.g. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens), without Universal's blessing.
"Blessing" usually being a way of saying "getting money" in business.