SeaWorld without Shamu? Or could a clash of corporate cultures keep Merlin out of a Busch theme park deal?
There's a great comment in the Busch/Blackstone open thread
that directed my attention to Merlin Entertainments' corporate policy on the care of marine mammals
Merlin is the theme park company that operates Legoland and the SeaLife Aquariums, and is 70% owned by Blackstone Group, the reported suitor of the Busch Entertainment Corp. theme parks.
Merlin's policy seems at odds with current SeaWorld operations, including the use of marine mammals in shows.
Dolphins perform in the 'Blue Horizons' show at SeaWorld Orlando.
Would this conflict prevent Blackstone from using Merlin as the investment vehicle to acquire BEC? If so, that would mean the loss of some interesting synergies, such as between SeaWorld and Legoland in San Diego County, as well as a potential marriage between Lego and Sesame Street in the Merlin and BEC parks.
Even an independent investment by Blackstone in BEC could prove troublesome, if there is significant support within Blackstone's management for Merlin's way of handling marine mammals. SeaWorld without Shamu would be a very different company than what today's consumers expect.
Update: The comments keep getting better. Now, we've got word of a non-compete clause that Blackstone and Universal signed, which would keep Blackstone from buying or investing in any other theme parks in the state of Florida (e.g. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens), without Universal's blessing.
"Blessing" usually being a way of saying "getting money" in business.
Pretty sure those objections would be overcome when we're talking about billions of dollars.
That is a major conflict in interest there. Taking Shamu from SeaWorld is like slicing your wrists, and that's what Merlin would be doing if they did take the whales and dolphins away. I'm now hoping someone else will step in to save Busch. I really enjoy the parks a lot and I really don't want to see them disappear.
it looks like that would just have to change the show to be what the were in the past. Teach people with entertainment and not just the shows they do now
You mean, gasp, LEARN????
Could it be that Merlin has this policy because they're based in UK/Europe which is home to more fanatical animal rights activists than in teh USA?
Have you mentioned before the non-compete that Blackstone signed with Universal in conjunction with the financing documents (S-4 filed with SEC) for parks in the State of Florida in February 2008? I believe the basic gist was that Vivendi, Blackstone, and Universal had to seek permission from the other parties if they decided to invest in theme parks inside of Florida.
Merlin is a subsidiary of Blackstone as will be Busch Entertainment Corp. Problem solved.
Wouldn't that be like being interested in buying Disney, but having a corporate policy about the use of rodent mammals?
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