It's official: Blackstone out at Universal Orlando

June 6, 2011, 8:19 PM · Here's the memo going around the company: (And yes, we told you about this already.)
NBCUniversal and The Blackstone Group have announced that they have entered into an agreement whereby NBCUniversal will purchase Blackstone's 50% interest in Universal Orlando, giving NBCUnviersal and its affiliates a complete stake in Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk.

"The acquisition consolidates our ownership and confirms our long-term commitment to Universal Orlando and the theme park business." Steve Burke said, "Universal Orlando has a superb management team and exciting growth opportunities."

"We are proud of the extraordinary growth and success that Universal Orlando experienced during our eleven years of ownership," said Michael Chae, Senior Managing Director of Blackstone. "Throughout this period we have been committed to investing for long-term growth in partnership with the Company's management and NBCUniversal, and we are gratified with the results of this strategy."

The price for Blackstone's 50% stake in Universal Orlando? $1.025 billion. For perspective, Disney's spending $1.1 billion on its revamp of the California Adventure theme park.

Replies (8)

June 6, 2011 at 8:56 PM · The statement seems to explicitly omit the Universal Orlando hotel resorts from the acquisition. Are they included in this purchase?
June 6, 2011 at 9:31 PM · Those are Loews hotels, not operated by Universal.
June 6, 2011 at 9:34 PM · @ Tony I'm not positive on this being included but I do know that they are considered to be a part of the City Walk portion of the resort. But I'd assume they are not a part of the acquisition considering they are Lowe's Hotels, but again not sure.

Edit: Thanks for the clarification Robert.

June 7, 2011 at 7:27 AM · Well hopefully Blackstone can now concentrate on pumping some cash into Merlin to bring their attractions up to scratch with Universal and Disney's. Just a dream I suppose...
June 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM · Thanks Robert. Don't know any specifics but now I wonder why, if they are not Universal owned, do the people staying there get front of the line access and early admission to the parks. I guess Universal can grant that to anyone they care to even the people staying across the street at Motel 6.
June 7, 2011 at 11:27 AM · So now does Blackstone take some of that money and invest into the Sea World, Sesame Place and Busch Gardens parks? It seems that with some of that money they could turn BG Williamsburg into a midatlantic resort (with hotels and maybe park expansion). They could really go over the Tampa and Williamsburg parks and increase the emphasis on theming that the parks seem to have lost over the last couple of years under AB/InBev. Alternatively they could invest a lot of that money back into Merlin and build up their european parks. Any thoughts on what to do with the money as they have definitely stated their intent to invest within the theme park industry.
June 7, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Tony,

The perks for the hotel guests are all part of the licensing/lease deal between Universal and Loews, I've been told. Universal selected Loews to develop and run those hotels as Universal's not in the hotel business. But UO works with Loews in the hotels' promotion and integration with the rest of the resort. So they're not exactly like some random hotel that just happens to be in the area.

As for what Blackstone will do now, well, it's cashed out and that money goes into the till for its managers to reinvest in other acquisitions, in companies that it currently holds, or in payments to investors. Remember, Blackstone owns a ton of other stuff, not just Merlin and SeaWorld (which are operated independently of each other, BTW.)

June 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM · The publiced numbers dont make any sense. Stupid PE weasel words. Purchase price ~1 billion for 50%, enterprise value ~3 billion, --> 1 billion debt? Doesnt the operating company owe much more? God knows what they twisted there to make their returns look good for public anouncement.

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