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What if Universal bought Sea World...

What if Universal bought Sea World...

From robert morris
Posted December 18, 2012 at 2:13 PM
With Sea World going towards IPO, and Blackstone's history is not one to hold properties for long term.

And not many companies have the business model to operate theme parks.

Would it make sense for Universal to purchase Sea World and its other related parks.

Imagine Orlando with Universal then owning 3 world class theme parks, one boutique park and two water parks. How would that compare to Disney World and then Universal compared to Disney in the USA with then also the Busch Theme Parks and Sesame Place.

Also on second note what if Disney bought Sea World in their spending spree...


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

From Rob Pastor
Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:39 PM
The problem for a Universal purchase is the absence of land for supporting hotels etc. That's a huge financial detriment. Sea World is basically land locked, unless I'm incorrect on that point. Disney's vast size holds huge advantages, which they've taken advantage of with their numerous hotel holdings. The theme parks theirselves are only part of the financial pie. I don't think Sea World makes a lot of sense for Universal. And since it is so far detached from Disney World, I don't think it works real well for Disney either.

From robert morris
Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:51 PM
Sea World actually has a good portion of land owned and adjacent to it including Universal's old tract of land.

It would obviously also include Aquatica and Discovery Cove

So they actually would now have their second water park

From Rob Pastor
Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:52 PM
Robert: Is that section that Universal previously sold owned by Sea World or outside investors?

From robert morris
Posted December 19, 2012 at 6:25 AM
Sea World owns a good tract of land for hotels next to Aquatica and also behind Discovery Cove...
And some more across from their main parking lot

The universal land that got sold off had room for 4 hotels, two theme parks and another citywalk complex is on the other side of 528

Part of it was used for convention center expansion and some for UCF's hospitality campus...the rest never got developed

While its on the other side of 528 its just an overpass being built away from connected, they did an overpass a block over for the convention center so shouldn't be a big deal

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted December 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM
I don't think Universal would consider this, they are too detached. Wouldn't that mean they would have to purchase Busch Gardens Tampa and VA, as well as other SeaWorld Parks?

On an Orlando scale, I don't think it is in their strategy to have a park so far away from its core parks. And before someone points out, yes, Wet n Wild is 'far away', but Universal really don't promote that they own the park that much. I think there used to be a few more ticket options that included WnW, but over the years that has decreased somewhat.

If, for sake of argument, they did purchase it - it wouldn't exactly offer much to compete with Disney's easy, compact resort destination. For people without a car or rental, shuttles to the parks and the public transport in Orlando are a pain. I hate, hate, hate the I-ride with a passion and it is by far my most hated form of public transport!

From robert morris
Posted December 20, 2012 at 8:42 PM
Actually Universal's plan about a decade ago was four theme parks between two different complexs and the second one would have been about where Sea World is located.

So why not aquire a park with an established brand.

Now as regards to non orlando parks, they are profitable and well kept world class parks...something Universal I'm sure could adapt a business model for

From Robert Niles
Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I think NBCUniversal's probably written enough checks to Blackstone Group recently.... ;^)

From robert morris
Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:43 AM
@robert

Granted another large check to blackstone may not be ideal

But if you going spend almost 1.5 billion on your own parks for upgrades

You should at least kick the tires when you can add one of the top ten parks (attendance wise) in the US to your portfolio and only 3 miles down the road

Plus a newer water park, allowing you to close or due major rehab on Wet n Wild plus Discovery Cove as an option for all you 350 a night guest

Gives you a second park in Southern California, presence in Texas and fairly turn key Busch Garden Parks plus the Sesame IP comes along with them

It would probably close the domestic attendance gap and how many suitors are there if Sea World went on the market

Cedar Fair? Not enough money
Six Flags? No money
Viacom? Might work so all networks had parks
Time Warner? Unfortuantly all their properties reside at other parks

Disney? Defintly has the cash and Sea World isn't that far away from Disney World, finally get their VA park and almost double their empire

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted December 22, 2012 at 11:58 AM
@Robert, interesting point about their complex plans. I admit I did not know this - nice to learn something new.

However, the cynic inside of me is screaming - they obviously didn't build the complexes apart for a reason ;)

From Rob Pastor
Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:15 PM
Robert M.: Good comment about Disney finally getting their Virginia (Busch Gardens) park if they purchase the Sea World Corp.

From robert morris
Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:54 PM
The period when Universal sold the property and scrapped the 4 park plan was BC (before comcast)

They were young and they needed the money

As Mr. Potter hadn't started casting his spells to make tourist money dissapear for cream soda and whipped topping or 45 dollar pieces of wood called wands.

Now we have the new energized Universal that now is quickly exhausting its land...

From robert morris
Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM
And who knew disney could get a theme park in virginia about "european history" but not american history

From Rob Pastor
Posted December 22, 2012 at 5:33 PM
Robert: The more I think about Disney with Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the more business sense it makes. Plus the park is Disney ready. It's absolutely beautiful and very well themed. Woudn't take much to put the Disney European Resort tag on it. And with their Halloween & Christmas openings, they've taken a big step towards being a nearly all year park. Put Disney's marketing genius & brand with what is already there, plus a few add ons, and you have a park that can probably do 5 to 7 million a year.

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted December 24, 2012 at 7:43 AM
A 'European themed' Disney theme park would be interesting. It would certainly annoy the French who have been stuck with what is a mini-USA theme park in Paris. There are still a lot of people who are annoyed about it, for Disney then to introduce a more 'European based' park in a different country - that wouldn't go down well with them at all!

From TH Creative
Posted December 26, 2012 at 1:55 PM
Has Universal/Comcast ever had experience dealing with a substantially large number of critters?

From robert morris
Posted December 26, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Short of their animal shows, I would think not

But as the Busch Parks and Sea World have changed hands a few times in the last decade, and the staff handling their animals has stayed the same it shouldn't be an issue

From TH Creative
Posted December 26, 2012 at 5:53 PM
I don't know enough about their staffs to question whether or not they "stayed the same." Nor am I anything even close to being a marine biologist or any sort of expert on the requirements that come with operating multiple theme parks with such a sizable number of animals.

At face value it seems a bit risky for Comcast to make what would likely be a billion dollar investment on a collection of parks that are so different from Universal's "license a popular franchise and build an exciting, innovative, state-of-the-art" attraction schtick.

From robert morris
Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:25 AM
As regards to trainers and support staff aspects like that are normally dealt with during the sale and they get a bonus to stay on.

As regards to risk...it might be a bigger risk to not aqquire and the third park?

And wouldn't they just be buying the Sea World license slapping Universal Presents Sea World on a few signs and poof 3 theme parks, two water parks. And discovery cove

And while not one property on pure distance Sea World is closer to Universal than DAK is to MK

From Jake Johnson
Posted December 28, 2012 at 4:41 PM
I for one think it would cool to buy one ticket for sea world, bush gardens, US and IOA. Now you an get a ticket for both bush, sea world and get a free bus ride to tampa from orlando included with ticket.

In a 7 day period it hard to do sea, bush only.. now add in US and IOA.. that sounds like a good time and disney will be sweating bullets.. well maybe not.

From TH Creative
Posted December 28, 2012 at 5:07 PM
I will say this: Sea World must be concerned about the alleged Harry Potter addition to Universal. The common back and forth focuses on how Universal Orlando's expansion will impact attraction attendance at Disney. Sea World got SLAMMED when Potter opened. In 2010 (when Potter opened IOA's numbers jumped 30%. While the Disney parks (save DAK) experienced drops that were a bit more than 1%, Sea World's attendance plummeted more than 12%.

If Universal were going to buy the fish, they might want to wait a couple of years and see if the purchase price drops along with Sea World's attendance.

From Rob Pastor
Posted December 28, 2012 at 5:25 PM
Some interesting points TH. That scenario is plausible.

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted December 29, 2012 at 7:22 AM
Jake, you can get a park ticket for those 4 parks? Plus Aquatica and Wet n Wild.
So that ticket combo already kinda exists.

From TH Creative
Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:51 PM
Universal is (apparently) gonna by Bilbo ... Not Shamu ... Ah well.

From Rob Pastor
Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:33 AM
Robert M.: You my well have been on to something with his post. Rumors flying that Blackstone might postpone the IPO since they may be entertaining a buyer for Sea World. Did you hear rumblings about this through your hospitality network?

From robert morris
Posted January 7, 2013 at 8:04 AM
Didn't hear anything specfic about it...that was more just an idea looking at Blackstone's history with properties.

Heck if I relayed on what people talked about intoxicated at the bar about.

Disney would already have seven gates on property and Universal would have knocked down all of North I Drive for 3 more theme parks.

I t just kind of makes sense for Universal if your willingto spend 1.5 billion on property why not spend and extra 2 billion or so and add instantly probably be equal to disney in domestic attendance with the flick of a pen.

From Rob Pastor
Posted January 7, 2013 at 11:25 AM
It will be interesting to see what, if any, company is the potential buyer. It looks like your ideas have merit. At first, I was a bit dismissive, but the concept keeps growing on me. Not a bad idea for Disney. As you said, they would get their East Coast venue and most of the other properties are close enough to their Florida & Calif. resorts to work in tandem. . And, its making even more sense for Universal, as the scenes unfold. Comcast seems primed to take advantage of TDO's unexplained paralysis concerning new attractions. They've also turned around NBC's ratings, which should increase ad revenue. So, money is probably not an issue. And, if you read the Disney oriented sites, there is so much anger being expressed at TDO for Next Gen Fast Pass +,Next Gen Big Brother (Disney back to 1984 posters all over net sites & social network sites), lack of new attractions, price increases at all resort areas, and maintainance issues, that it appears the TDO suits are seriously damaging the Disney brand. I see very few positive postings concerning WDW on the Disney oriented web sites.Over 90%(unscientific) seem very negative. In contrast, nearly all the postings concerning Disneyland resort are very positive. Burbank needs to fix this TDO management problem before there is irrepairable brand harm..... And, if Disney or Universal are not the possible buyers, who could it be?...Lots of questions out there.

From robert morris
Posted January 7, 2013 at 3:03 PM
I guess Merlin would be a third option...but would quite a jump for their presence in US.

And for Orlando already getting three minor attractions from them next year or so.

From Tim Hillman
Posted January 7, 2013 at 6:02 PM
If Universal bought Sea World would we see a reincarnation of Jaws?

From Rob Pastor
Posted January 7, 2013 at 6:03 PM
Tim: Good one!

From Andrew Dougherty
Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:41 PM
We better

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