Blackstone looking to sell Universal Orlando stake
Published: March 15, 2011 at 7:07 PM
Blackstone's a major player in the theme park business. In addition to its stake in Universal Orlando, it owns SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and co-owns Merlin Entertainments, the owner of the Legoland theme parks. As such, it owns or co-owns every major non-Disney theme park in Central Florida.
Blackstone acquired its stake in Universal Orlando when it obtained the Rank Organisation, the original partner with MCA (the former owner of Universal Studios) in what was then just the Universal Studios Florida theme park and a bunch of surrounding land.
According to an SEC filing, Blackstone has offered to sell its share to fellow co-owner NBCUniversal, which would then own all of the resort.
NBCUniversal has until June 12 to agree to the deal. What if it doesn't? This is where things get interesting. In that case, Blackstone has the right to solicit bids for the entire resort, which could transfer its ownership - and NBCUniveral's - to another company, according to a "drag-along provision" in their agreement:
UCDP [Universal City Development Partners - the holding company that controls Universal Orlando - Ed.] was informed on March 9, 2011 that Blackstone triggered the right of first refusal and offered to sell its interest in UCDP to the NBCU Parties, who have until June 12, 2011 to accept Blackstone’s offer or be subject to the drag-along provisions in the partners’ agreement. We will cooperate to facilitate a sale pursuant to the terms of the partners’ agreement, including bearing the transaction costs of any such sale, but any decision regarding the timing and terms of a sale is outside of our control. Accordingly, although Blackstone has triggered the right of first refusal, we cannot make assurances that a sale of Blackstone’s or NBCU’s ownership interest in UCDP will occur or, if it does, the timing, terms or impact on UCDP of any such sale.
By the way, did you ever wonder what the ownership of Universal Orlando Resort looked like? Well, here it is, in convenient chart form. :^p
The details of the SEC filing also reveal lots of information about what happens to branding agreements within the park, including the Universal name, should the resort be sold to a third party. (Basically, many go away eventually, and Warner Bros can pull the Harry Potter license upon a sale if it doesn't like the new owner.)
Finally, props to Universal for name-checking Theme Park Insider in the filing. That's gotta be a first.
Have at it in the comments, folks.