Will the Busch theme parks be the next to be sold?

June 3, 2008, 8:57 AM · Speculation is building that the Busch theme park chain might be the next one to change owners.

Belgian brewer InBev is trying to round up $50 billion in financing to take over St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, owner of the Busch Entertainment Corporation, which operates the Busch Gardens and SeaWorld theme parks.

Busch is hiring its own financial advisers to fend off the attempt. Busch recently moved its theme park operations from St. Louis to Orlando, and some analysts believe that InBev would have little interest in running theme parks, and might look to sell the parks to raise money to help cover the cost of the potential deal.

In the past few years:

  • CBS sold its Paramount Parks to Cedar Fair.
  • Lego sold a majority share in Legoland to Merlin Entertainments, which later bought Tussauds.
  • Six Flags was taken over by a investment group led by Dan Snyder
  • Universal was bought by General Electric, as Vivendi broke up and Universal was combined with GE"s NBC.
  • Disney changed its top management, as Robert Iger replaced CEO Michael Eisner.

    That's left Busch as the model of stability in the industry. So much for that stability, now.

    Replies (9)

    June 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM · As I already said in the past, I will be disappointed if Anheuser-Busch sells out.
    Sea World and Busch Gardens will probably be sold if the deal goes through. Therefore no more free beer at the hospitably centers. Plus Discovery Cove and Aquatica……
    I really hope not. I enjoy the parks the way they are now…

    Here is an idea; maybe the TPI’s can buy these parks. We will chip in a few bucks and buy out the parks from InBev…
    Whose in???

    June 3, 2008 at 10:00 AM · Let me this start by saying I am a huge Busch Gardens fan. I hope that Anheuser- Busch can fend this takeover attempt off. I would hate to see a great American company be sold to a foreign company. To me Busch’s theme parks are the best run and who knows what would happen if it is sold. This really bothers me.
    June 3, 2008 at 10:04 AM · How often does bud claim to be the King of Beers, proud to be American Owned.
    I would HATE this if it goes through. As I get older, as supposedly wiser, I am enjoying SeaWorld more and more, it would be awful to change any aspect of it.
    I am also planning a trip to Discovery Code this month, and again, changes there may not be the best. Hopefully they can sell of to someone else, Heck, even Miller (OK, South African Owner, but still strong US routes).

    Maybe Universal could buy it up, that would be some Major comp for Disney then!

    June 3, 2008 at 10:06 AM · Who would buy them? Who has the resources left to do that? Not Cedar Fair. Not Six Flags. It's not in Disney's corporate culture to do this. Universal? Where's the synergy there?

    That would leave Merlin, or an investment bank. Personally, I am intrigued by a Merlin fit. I think the synergies are there with SeaWorld/SeaLife and the educational aspects of the Busch parks fits well with Legoland's market niche.

    That said, I hope that Busch fights off the deal. We need more diversification in the global market, not more consolidation.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:14 AM · When I first read about the possible InBev takeover a week or two ago, my first thought was what's going to the happen to the Busch Parks? Then I remembered that the parks headquarters was moved. I think the most likely action initially is that the theme parks might be spun off as a separate company with InBev as the primary shareholder. This would allow them to concentrate on the alcohol business and worry about the fate of the parks later. I think it might make it easier for other investors to consider buying the park.

    Also, I don't know if they would have the capital or be able to get the funding to do so, but what about Herschend Family Entertainment as possible suitor?

    June 3, 2008 at 12:18 PM · Please GOD NO! I love Busch and the way they run their parks. InBev would for sure ruin these parks.
    June 3, 2008 at 1:14 PM · I would really, really hate to see A-B sold. Definitely think the last thing we need is more globalization/homogenization. And although I am suspicious of unthinking "knee jerk" patriotism, I admit I'm proud A-B has remained an American company.

    It's hard to see how the parks could be better run, so I think a change in ownership could only be worse.

    I love the way one time when I took a concern to a customer service rep, part of the reply I got was, "Mr. Busch wants us to do ... " as part of the explanation for what I'd seen. Gosh, the last time I worked for a big corporation, in a senior-level management (albeit professional) position, I don't think I ever had cause to invoke the name of the CEO. But this employee spoke as though she felt she received personal directives on how to do her job from Auggie IV. In short, it is apparent when you visit BGE that there is a real culture in A-B of customer service and company pride, and that can't be bought and shouldn't be sold.

    So many Busches have their jobs wrapped up in the companies, too. Now, I'm sure they could all retire today, with or without selling the company, and live comfortably the rest of their lives. But when you have that kind of family history with a company, why would you want to? Can't tell me Ginny doesn't like her position with the Conservation Fund, and so on.

    It seems clear they don't want to be taken over, and I hope they can withstand any hostile takeover bids. Many really special things would indeed be lost, both with the outstanding and always-changing brewery operations (it astounds me the way they keep old brands alive but also constantly introduce new and seasonal products)and the wonderful BEC.

    June 3, 2008 at 1:46 PM · I think its more of a shakeup than everybody being bought by somebody else.

    Comcast did try to buy Disney, but no good....

    I also do not think that Busch parks will be bought. They have invested way too many time and effort in this

    June 3, 2008 at 5:35 PM · I love Anheuser-Busch and would be extremely disappointed if the company was sold.

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