And so the InBev era begins at the Busch theme parks...

November 23, 2008, 4:28 PM · [Editor's note: This was submitted to the discussion forum, but I moved it up to the front-page Blog Flume. FWIW, I haven't independently confirmed anything below yet, so I'm deferring to the author for now.

Editor's Update: Busch denials.

Editor's Update 2: From someone whose judgment I respect with contacts whom I know: "I had spoken to one of Sea World's most senior animal training staff about this very issue. He told me that, honestly, he's heard nothing that would indicate anything at Sea World is going to change, at least as far as animal care and management is concerned. InBev seems quite content to get out of the way and let the experts do their jobs, as it were."]

Interesting words from several different employees from within SeaWorld Orlando and the areas affected by the recent sellout of AB (these folks are credible and have been right up to this point):

1. No buyers for the park at this time. Busch family was pursuing a deal to buy the parks, but that seems to have fallen through.

2. The iconic Clydesdales and Budweiser donkey have been sold. They were not a part of the actual AB Clydesdale operation, but rather were property of the parks. The donkey has already left the building — the horses are being allowed to stay until Jan 1.

3. Jan 1 seems to be a big day in the parks. The Hospitality House will close for good on that day. All AB employees (the folks in the Brewmasters Club actually work for AB marketing) in that area are gone. No more Brewmaster's Club or two free samples.

4. Jan 1 is also the day that all of the old AB Eagle logos are coming down. No word as to whether or not they'll be replacing them with the new AB-InBev seagull-on-acid logo. They've already nixed the "Here's to our Heros" segment from the Believe beginning (the one featuring the IVth). Although they are keeping the other segment of the intro, it will be interesting to see if that goes away on Jan. 1 as well.

If you enjoyed the parks under the 20 years that AB has owned them, (I am presuming these changes are going to be company wide)... now through Jan. 1. is the time.

The beer thing at the SeaWorld parks doesn't really bother me, but I remember in the early 70s going to Busch Gardens Africa for my birthdays with my parents and riding "the world's longest escolator" ride to the brewery tour. I just can't imagine BG without the "Busch."

Very sad day indeed if this is true — which I believe it is.

Replies (17)

November 23, 2008 at 7:20 PM · I hope these are all false. I did buy 265 shares of Bud stock when the price dropped to $59.00 and I was guaranteed $70.00 a share for the sale. I figured I would take a little from InBev before they killed Bud..
November 23, 2008 at 9:38 PM · I'm interested to hear what Busch theme park employees are hearing from their supervisors and through the grapevine. If you are not comfortable posting directly, please e-mail me with your stories.

It seems to me that keeping everything the same as it has been would be in InBev's best interest. That allows InBev to continue to leverage the established values of the Busch brands, and to maintain the value of the park assets. Why start selling off or eliminating brand value? It's not like InBev is going to rebrand Bud beer as InBev.

November 23, 2008 at 11:36 PM · So whats it going to be called on Jan 1? InBev Gardens?? That just doesnt have the same ring to it as Busch Gardens
November 24, 2008 at 12:01 AM · It makes sense to use whatever will be the new corporate logo at that point, but I think that there's as much brand value in "Busch Gardens" as their is in "Budweiser," so while a graphic logo might change, I'd be shocked to see a park name change, especially with the parks up for sale.

I also could see moving the brewery ops out on Jan. 1, since the expectation would be that they would leave under the new owner anyway, and it'd be cleaner from an accounting perspective to eliminate all non-transferring (to a new owner) assets from the parks at the beginning of the fiscal year (assuming that's Jan. 1).

On the other hand, though, if I were running the joint, I'd just leave the brewery stuff in and try to license it to the new owner, as the in-park placement provides good marketing value to the various beer brands. But, hey, what do I know about beer? :-)

November 24, 2008 at 5:33 AM · Just for the record I'll be sad to see the Clydesdales and the donkey leave.

I don't much care what they call the Parks , although I don't think it makes any sense to change them,so long as they are still there for us to visit and are well maintained.

I've already stated my feelings about such an iconic and long established brand as Busch having to sell up. Let's just hope the new owners continue to provide the same excellent level of entertainment that the Busch Group has done over the years.

November 24, 2008 at 5:47 AM · confirmed yesterday by another of the clydesdale employees: "Most likely, horses are gone and hamlet is closed on Jan. 1.
November 24, 2008 at 10:27 AM · This move by inbev really annoys me im just so angry that these once great parks are being picked apart, why cant they just leave the theme parks alone!!!
November 24, 2008 at 11:11 AM · The closing of the clysdale area and the Hospitality House has to be my worst fear in the sale of AB.Inbev, in my opinion, don't get it and, sorry for being so negative, but is the beginning of the end of Busch Gardens.
November 24, 2008 at 11:29 AM · I was there just 2 weeks ago. I'm glad I got my 2 samples while I could. They should leave the Hospitality House open. It's a nice place to rest your feet and enjoy a brew.
November 24, 2008 at 1:01 PM · I'm hoping it's not "the beginning of the end". InBev is a huge company, and they should be able to make something of the parks. OK, a couple of the icons will disappear, but I'm not letting it bother me until something more drastic than the loss of the Clydesdales happens.
November 24, 2008 at 1:13 PM · The park has denied any of the stories (specifically referring to the TPI blog as their source) except for the donkey being removed.

November 24, 2008 at 2:02 PM · Two different companies (whose names escape me) have been looking to buy the Busch parks. The British company-- owner of several theme parks in Europe-- is the most interested while a Spanish company has shown moderate interest. Remember, this is only interest. It doesn't seem like any actual buyer is stepping forward.

The owner of the Universal parks has also taken a look. Rumor has it that Disney expressed interest previously, but Florida's government denied it because it would be like a monopoly for the state's theme park industry.

So far new passholders should not be worried; the parks are doing everything in their power to make the change as unnoticeable as possible. Of course I'm still worried because something about Busch Gardens and Seaworld make it totally unique from any other theme park. My first I-have-finally-turned-21 alcoholic beverage was at Busch Gardens. Hopefully it won't go the way of Cypress Gardens.

November 24, 2008 at 2:15 PM · When evaluating rumors, it's always helpful to ask yourself, "Does this make sense?"

Closing the Hospitality areas and reducing the brand exposure of the beer brands you just bought in theme parks you also just bought (parks that attract millions of customers annually) makes no sense, even if you are about to sell those parks.

November 24, 2008 at 3:27 PM · Lots of chatter today.

What I've pieced together, so far: The farther down the food chain you are at BEC, the more wild the rumors you are hearing. Front-line people are hearing rumors of massive new branding and shut-downs. But management types (whom I'm more inclined to believe here) are hearing that nothing's going to change, save the corporate name and the corporate (but not brand) logos.

I think that in the telephone game that's being played among some front-line employees there's confusion about corporate versus beer brand versus park names and logos, so that some employees are hearing that all are changing. (Same thing with the donkey and the horses.)

November 24, 2008 at 9:20 PM · That makes perfect sense, Robert. Last time I went to Hard Rock, the lonely, lonely person working the front gate said the park was doing just swell...
November 24, 2008 at 9:25 PM · I have friends that are higher up in management and as far as they know everything is staying the same. No changes to the Clydesdales, Brewmaster's Club, etc.
November 25, 2008 at 6:01 PM · I'd be surprised if anything changed for the parks next season at all. I know that staff at BGE were pretty tight lipped in October when asked any questions about the InBev takeover, merger, what have you.

But that's just my opinion as a local in Williamsburg. Time will tell.

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