Universal Orlando's Blackstone Group to Buy Legoland?

Legoland California: Reports surface linking the investment firm to the Danish toymaker.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 1, 2005 at 9:04 AM
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Lego has agreed to sell its four Legoland theme parks to the investment firm Blackstone Group, which U.S. theme park fans now as the 50 percent owner of Universal Orlando Resort.

The Copenhagen Post quotes a Lego press release rejecting "media speculations that a deal has been struck," but adds that the company expects a deal to be complete this summer.

The Journal estimated the sale price at $461 million. The paper also said that Lego would retain a 10-15 percent stake in the parks.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 1, 2005 at 9:10 AM
Personally, I'd rather see an investment group like Blackstone buy Legoland than a theme park company with existing management teams that it would bring in to replace the folks running the Legoland parks.

Legoland is developing the most revolutionary concepts in the theme park industry right now, and I would hate to see their parks dumbed down to the level of their competition.

What Legoland needs is capital. With Lego losing cash due to cheap Chinese alternatives, the company doesn't have the money necessary to implement its concepts on a wide scale. Or to promote them to full range of potential visitors.

A sale to a company like Blackstone, if structured right, would allow Lego's theme park management team to retain operational and design control, while giving the parks access to a much more powerful source of needed capital.

And, heck, let's just start the giddy speculation now: If Blackstone's the buyer, how long 'til we see Legoland Florida as the third gate at Universal Orlando? A guy can dream, can't he?

From Ben Mills
Posted June 1, 2005 at 9:36 AM
Yeah, but aren't Blackstone threatening to pull out of UO in the next few years? I'll admit, it could work quite well... but I'm not exactly holding my breath on it.

I still believe that Star Parks would be the best owners for the Legoland parks. They may be new(ish) to the theme park world, but they've already shown - with their investments in the former Six Flags Europe park - that they understand the number one rule of the industry: you've gotta spend it to make it.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 1, 2005 at 1:36 PM
Actually, there are more significant land availability issues for a third park at UO. Conventional wisdom had always placed a potential third park on Universal's old Martin land on I-Drive, not adjacent to the other parks. I don't know if you could cram a third park in there.

But hey, if you wanted to go the other direction, there is *plenty* of room for an IOA West in Carlsbad.... ;-)

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