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Thoughts on a potential new owner for SeaWorld/Busch Gardens?

Sea World Orlando: It appears AB-InBev is pressing forward with attempts to sell Busch Entertainment and its parks. Any thoughts on potential new owners? Has anybody heard anything in the Texas, California, Virginia or Pennsylvania parks?

From tilikum shamu
Posted March 6, 2009 at 3:20 PM
Word seems to b that AB III is spending more time in the parks, and some workers that have seen and talked to him say it seems like he's "testing the waters" to see what the reaction would be of the workers if he was back in the scenario. The best case scenario to me would be a partnership between the Busch Family (AB III, Steven, Virginia) and an entity like Merlin. What seems to be overlooked in most every news report i've read is that Merlin (via Blackstone) is the largest operator of public aquaria in the world. They'd seem to be a good fit.
Also, what's interesting, is that even though they are selling beer in the parks, they are limiting choices. Once the horribly rethemed "Terrace" runs out of Amberbock, Michelob and other premium AB products, all you'll be able to buy is Bud, Budlight, Mich Ultra and Tennent's. I've been told the same thing is true at Sharks Underwater Grill. The funny thing is, their budget for the entire Hospitality House Operation was a little over $900,000 per year; for which they got TONS of exposure and turned people on to a wide array of products. They decided to go to the new format because they figured out it was going to be too expensive to remodel the building and they had almost 250,000 of the little plastic cups left over.
Why not sell a variety of beer and charge people $10 per person for beer school — and add to the bottom line?
I always seemed to think Busch Entertainment was an innovator, a really well-managed company. But it is apparent with the effort and expense put into retheming the HH and the innovative new resteraunt "Pizza" that without the Busch influence, they've kind of just given up. I can't wait to see if they've scrimped on the marine life component with Manta like they did at Aquatica.
Now they are down to three or four Clydesdales, and the workers in that part of the park say they can hardly bear to come into work to see which one is gone next. The Dalmations are going as well... one was adopted by a front office employee...
Morale is at an all-time low for employees that really enjoyed working for what was once a world-class company. Since In-Bev took over, not only have they taken away employee's beer, but they also tripled health care costs for employees and cut out tuition reimbursement.
Sad days indeed.
Thoughts?


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From tilikum shamu
Posted March 8, 2009 at 6:20 PM
Come on Gareth... No response? You were the big efender, and now everything I predicted has come to pass...

From tilikum shamu
Posted March 8, 2009 at 6:22 PM
Come on Gareth... No response? You were the big defender, and now everything I predicted has come to pass... Obviously, Fred Jacobs should be taken at his word.

From tilikum shamu
Posted March 8, 2009 at 6:32 PM
Interesting. Carlos Brito and his AB-InDebt reported $95 M profits for 08. Busch Entertainment has taken a big hit for being "non core"... last year, their result was $1.2 billion in sales and $262 million in profit.
Hmmm. Brito is a genius. Obviously, the parks must go.

From Gareth H
Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:29 AM
Actually nameless, I've pretty much said the same things that have happened, RE Hospitality center closing, rebranding of it etc (You beat me to the punch on updating on the cheap re-opening).

Its sad that things have changed, and will continue to, but as Robert said, better AB InBev be the evil ones than the new owner.

I can't see the Clydesdales sticking around, I've noticed that the numbers have been dwindling. They may decide to keep a couple around for show, especially the olders one, or the ones with health issues, like Kelly.

I also think that a purchase by the Busch Family, independantly, or in conjunction with Merlin would be the best option for the park.
Merlin have the $$$, as do the Busch Fam. Melin has the success of its European parks and Busch has the background and success of the AB Parks,.

Something else to note though. Out of all the park owners, AB always seemed to be the most stable. Maybe it was because the new attractions were few and far between or because they actually cared about their patrons, and any complaints and issues were dealed with swiftly, efficiently and to your satisfaction (Unlike the other Orlando park installing a new coaster right now, cough cough)

So a big defender? Yes, of course, I love Seaworld and the changes may not be the greatest for me personally and for many other guests, but I uunderstand why they are doing it and it will be for the good of the park in the long run, hopefully.

We'll have to mmeet up one day and discuss it over a $1.99 12oz :)

From Derek Potter
Posted March 9, 2009 at 2:51 PM
I'm not convinced that Busch is in a big hurry to sell. In case you didn't notice, the economy sucks right now, and the buyer list is pretty small. Elementary business lesson coming up....When spending is way down, the banks aren't thawed out, and the list of potential buyers is small, the sale price of the parks will be low. The more that money flies around, the higher the price, and the more bidders there are, the more money there is in the air. The money just ain't flying right now, and everyone is scared to death to invest in anything.

If you ask me, Busch would be wise to retain the parks for now. They do well financially, and won't be a burden on the company moneywise. As long as they don't compromise the brand by taking away the quality, they will get a handsome chunk of money if they wait until the economy recovers to sell.

From Jason Jackson
Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:49 PM
Another thing to think about is why should the BEC parks invest money in re-theming the old Hospitality Centers if there is an impending sale and additional capital could be forthcoming. It would seem that things would be on the status quo to at least get through the tough economic times for a bit.

From David
Posted April 26, 2009 at 6:32 PM
Got this from the Orlando Sentinel.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-biztourism27042709apr27,0,6560597.story

Has the parent company of Universal Orlando sniffed around the parent company of SeaWorld Orlando?

General Electric Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt won't say outright, but he sure makes it sound like his company has at least kicked the tires at Busch Entertainment Corp., which has been rumored to be for sale in the months since Belgian beer giant InBev acquired Anheuser Busch late last year. (Universal is co-owned by GE's NBC Universal unit and the Blackstone Group.)

"I think any time there's a change in the industry, people in the industry are going to take a look at it," Immelt told the Orlando Sentinel shortly before GE's annual shareholder meeting began last week in the Orange County Convention Center. "My understanding is that's [a Busch Entertainment sale] been slowed down a little bit, so I can't really speak to it. But look, we're in the business, and we're always looking for opportunities to make the business better."

So you have looked at Busch?

Immelt responded: "You just never can comment on stuff like that. But we're an 'industrial participant,' let's say. And so I think we look at these things with interest."

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