Theme Park Insider

Universal taps Tom Mehrmann to run its Beijing theme park

October 5, 2017, 10:57 AM · Universal Parks and Resorts has announced that it has hired industry veteran Tom Mehrmann as President and General Manager of Universal Studios Beijing, now under construction in the Chinese capital.

Mehrmann most recently worked as CEO of Ocean Park in Hong Kong, which consistently beat rival Hong Kong Disneyland in attendance under his leadership. Before that, Mehrmann worked as Vice President of Knott's Berry Farm, so he has spent his career finding ways to compete with a certain theme park rival of Universal's.

"Tom will bring tremendous industry knowledge, business acumen and international experience to our project," Page Thompson, President and Chief Operating Officer –International, Universal Parks & Resorts, said in a statement. "He has exactly what we and our partners need to help create a world-class theme park entertainment destination."

With his success run in Hong Kong, Mehrmann has experience in finding ways to appeal to local audiences in Asia with a world-class themed attraction. In fact, with his experience running what was at the time the most popular non-Disney, non-Universal theme park in the world — not to mention the most-visited marine mammal park — I thought Mehrmann was the most logical choice to take over the SeaWorld Parks chain, which instead hired Joel Manby for that job. But Universal is a much stronger chain these days than SeaWorld, with strong corporate ownership and access to proven IP and a more successful creative team.

Universal Studios Beijing was slated to open in 2019, but the development schedule has slid back according to what I am hearing from people connected with the company, and now an opening in 2020 appears to be possible. The $3.3 billion park is going in on a 363-acre site and will include two hotels in addition to the theme park.

Previously:

Replies (3)

October 5, 2017 at 1:43 PM · #thanksBeijing this will mean less spending on the American parks
October 5, 2017 at 9:16 PM · I'm not so sure it will. With the Beijing park being part owned by a Chinese state-controlled company, Universal may actually be raking in more liquid cash to burn here from the royalties than what qthey're spending on the park.
Or maybe not. You'd need a real industry insider to know what the royalties are and how much each ownership side is investing up front.
October 6, 2017 at 5:10 AM · @FloreanFortescue

The bill has been upped to over $7 billion for the first phase of Universal Beijing (theme park + 2 hotels + CityWalk).

That money will be almost entirely in loans; very little capital is being put up at front by Universal or its Chinese partners. The largest banks in China are lending the money. Yes, the project will carry heavy debt, but there's very little financial exposure to Comcast/Universal.

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