InBev Closing AB Parks?

Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Can anyone out there confirm or deny these rumors?

From Fran Emory
Posted July 13, 2008 at 10:31 PM
Well, the rumor mill has it that AB is being purchased by InBev and all the Theme Parks will be closed as soon as possible.

Can anyone out there confirm or deny these rumors?

From Robert Niles
Posted July 13, 2008 at 10:31 PM
Companies do not shutter profitable multi-million-dollar assets for no return on investment, not without inviting massive shareholder lawsuits.

The parks will remain open, even thought they might have new owners.

From Missy Renee
Posted July 14, 2008 at 3:21 AM
I also do not expect such dramatic measures as immediately closures. However, new ownership could mean some fairly significant changes over the next couple of years. I am thinking about aspects such as employee status, quality control, acquisition and development of new attractions, etc. I am trying to remain optimistic...

From Scott Seal
Posted July 14, 2008 at 4:13 AM
I thought it was a merger, not a, if Inbev wanted to buy AB, that means that they feel that AB is a profitable business - there would be no reason for them to go out and change all the business practices since they are what made AB work in the first place.

If the parks were dragging AB down, they'd have been closed a long time ago. They are money makers, and they'll stay open.

From Karin S
Posted July 14, 2008 at 7:53 AM
In today's St. Pete Times, it quotes analysts who speculate InBev might sell off the entertainment unit to help pay for the acquisition. They also note that InBev wants to focus on making beer but will take a look at the themeparks - whose estimated worth is between 2.2 billion and 2.9 billion dollars. Obviously, it's too early to tell what's going to happen...stay tuned.

From Donna Tolliver-Walker
Posted July 14, 2008 at 10:40 AM
I find it hard to be optimistic. Haven't seen that Cedar Fair's acquisition of the Paramount Parks has done anybody much good. Only this year has KD seen anything major out of the buyout, in acquiring a used coaster (Dominator). And Cedar Fair by and large appears to be a great amusement park operator. But I think they stretched themselves too thin. Does anybody have examples of ownership changes that did work well for a park chain?

The Busch operations are so special that it's hard to believe the quality will continue. Very clean, beautiful family parks with great theming and enough thrills to keep you coming back. And what about all the animals and the conservation efforts? It's just hard to believe that these aspects of the operations will continue to get the same emphasis.

Would Universal or any other buyer be able to keep the unique blend of thrills and theming the same? Or will the parks become just another bunch of thrill parks? Or fall into neglect with nothing new added while slowly things deteriorate?

A company's culture can be a very important thing. Busch really had it right with the parks. Busch was truly special. But they've sold out for the bottom line of the shareholders. And all that customer service orientation and attention to detail may be gone in a heartbeat.

No doubt, employees from top management on down are in fear right now. Consciously or unconsciously, they're already thinking of the parks, the breweries, and, of course, their jobs as sinking ships. That affects performance whether one wants it to or not. And an extended period of ambiguity isn't going to help, either.

From hannah caller
Posted July 14, 2008 at 1:48 PM
This news has made me very sad and ever so slightly angry but........I've heard that even if InBEV dont want the parks, that the busch entertainment corperation could continue to run at least the Florida parks independantly. They would be bloody idiots to even consider selling these parks!!!!! Its the animals im worried about, as much as i love the rides surely the welfare of the many Seaworld and Busch animals is more concerning.

From steve lee
Posted July 14, 2008 at 2:25 PM
All of a sudden I'm really glad Cedar Fair dumped so much money into the Paramount Parks. Can you imagine how badly they'd screw up the AB parks?

From Robert Niles
Posted July 14, 2008 at 3:00 PM
+1 for that, Steve. :-)

From Donna Tolliver-Walker
Posted July 14, 2008 at 3:08 PM
So, again, esp to those who are hoping for a positive outcome for the BEC parks -- what are some examples of buyouts that did work well for the parks that were taken over?

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 14, 2008 at 3:43 PM
I bet there will not be much felt at the Seaworld/Busch Gardens levels. I would guess the same people would be in charge, just their bosses change.

If they ax the theme parks, that is just a shame! They have the most successful zoos/theme parks. All of their parks have high marks here.

From a money standpoint, it would be stupid to get rid of these parks!

From Justin Moore
Posted July 14, 2008 at 4:22 PM
Very, very sad - for lots of reasons. I'm not a flag waving patriot when it comes to most things; I could care less if my car is American (it's Japanese), not really concerned where my clothes come from (Taiwan?), but when my favorite theme park (BGE) becomes an "import," I can only sigh and hope.

Keep the animals, keep the service, keep the parks growing and we'll see what time tells...

From Daniel Williams
Posted July 14, 2008 at 4:37 PM
Donna: Well, Busch buying the Sea World parks worked. That, and the two water parks they purchased (Water Country USA, and Sesame Place (At least, I'm 90% sure they bought Sesame Place)).

From Jason Jackson
Posted July 14, 2008 at 6:29 PM
Actually, Busch built Sesame Place from the ground up. The Busch Parks could be spun off in an IPO as well. They are profitable parks that could operate on their own and they could possibly keep marketing alliances with Anheuser-Busch InBev.

From Brian Emery
Posted July 14, 2008 at 8:32 PM
I just read the announcement again and it says the two companies are combining, if this is true, than the parks could remain open as is…. I can only hope…

The new company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev and judging this new company by this name, maybe the parks will remain as the are…..

I just sent an e-mail to AB asking about the parks, I will probably not get a response but I tried…

From Fran Emory
Posted July 15, 2008 at 2:41 AM
I came across this link:

It seems like most people are saddened by the idea of AB being purchased by InBev. Personally, I have attended BGE since 1975 and now take my kids. For the entire area of Williamsburg and Kings Mill, no longer having the Busch Entertainment Division would be a real loss of both jobs and income from tourism.

We can only keep our fingers crossed about all the BEC Theme Parks and wait.

From James Rao
Posted July 15, 2008 at 9:26 AM
The latest post from Kevin Yee is an interesting breakdown on what might happen to the BG theme parks next.

From Missy Renee
Posted July 15, 2008 at 2:37 PM
Thanks for that link, James. Very interesting commentary...

From James Rao
Posted July 15, 2008 at 6:28 PM
No problem, Missy. I like to read Kevin Yee's stuff, but sometimes he is a bit rough on Disney, if you ask me. However, he always has an interesting take.

From Bruce Lane
Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:24 AM
@James Rao (and others),

Nice write-up from Kevin Yee, but I noticed an error right at the beginning. He says that Busch created the Sea World parks ("created and maintains"), and that's not accurate.

Sea World actually got their start in San Diego in 1964, founded by a group of students from UCLA. Ironically enough, their initial intent was to do an underwater restaurant.

The park operated as a limited partnership until 1968, when they made their IPO (something I didn't know until recently). The Ohio park opened in 1970, followed by Orlando in 1973 and San Antonio in 1988.

HBJ bought the chain in 1976, then sold them to Busch in 1989.

As mentioned, I didn't know the chain had gone public so long ago. That explains a great deal to me about why they behave as they do, and why their shows are far more fluff than substance.

Happy travels.

From Missy Renee
Posted July 16, 2008 at 6:10 AM
I didn't catch that mistake in the commentary, but 1989 definitely sounds right to me. I actually remember when Busch bought out Sea World, because they were promoting heavily at my local park (BGE, of course). I specifically remember cast members giving out free stuffed Shamus to guests on their way out. I believe they had a wind up key and played music as well.

That would have been during the same period that Busch had a production line of snacks. They were constantly giving out free pretzels and honey roasted peanuts to exiting guests. All of this would definitely have been late 1980's to early 1990's.

From Viv Thompson
Posted July 16, 2008 at 8:29 AM
From what I have been reading, most analysts believe that InBev will be selling off the theme parks; however, finding a buyer may be tough.
I'm glad I took my daughter to BGE this month. We went to BGE and WCUSA for a week this month. Right now, it kinda feels like it was our farewell trip to the Bush Gardens we know and love. This is the kind of change I hate.

From Tyler S.
Posted July 16, 2008 at 8:38 AM
Uggh, i've known BGE and WCUSA all my life and it will be hard to believe it won't be owned by Busch much longer.

From Jason Jackson
Posted July 16, 2008 at 5:41 PM
The key thing is that whoever owns the park must be committed to the very high standards that Anheuser-Busch had created for the parks and continue that tradition going forward. Not sure that is possible. It makes me very sad to think of all that going away.

From Peter Stephens
Posted July 17, 2008 at 1:26 PM
It would seem clear that InBev fully intends to sell the parks as a part of the acquisition. The "merger" was incredibly expensive. It is quite likely that InBev has never considered keeping the parks and has viewed the sale of them as an absolute necessity for the "deal" to be profitable, in the short-term. While this is not the best time to make such a sale (national economic woes), they may be able to hold-out for a year or two, but I fully believe they MUST sell those parks. For BG/Seaworld fans/employees and the residents of Williamsburg, Tampa, etc. the best that can be hoped for is a buyer that will commit to continued quality. I'm not sure I agree with the guy who is happy Cedar Fair can't afford them, presently. (There are much worse possibilities. I do not see CF as a bad entertainment company, at all. Why the slam?) Anyway, our beloved BGE and others likely are no more. Hopefully the buyer will see how great the parks and stay the course. BUT, I can't see BGE or BGA getting any new coasters for a long time. That will be the LAST thing on InBev's mind and a buyer will be short of cash, to say the least. This is depressing.

From Justin Moore
Posted July 17, 2008 at 2:59 PM
While depressing, a likely accurate analysis of the situation Peter.

Regarding Cedar Fair, I have to agree that while a CF-owned "Busch Gardens" (Cedar Gardens?) is not the apocalypse, I've witnessed first hand what the former Paramount Parks have become since the sale to CF a couple years ago. I wouldn't knock the company in general, they're all about good fun, but everyone knows CF runs coaster parks - not theme parks. I just don't see how it's possible for a CF-owned A-B park to maintain its theming, quality or service. But then again I'm not sure there are many companies other than your Disney's and Universal's that can...


From James Rao
Posted July 17, 2008 at 8:42 PM
Cedar Fair has a lot of debt right now from their purchase of those Paramount parks not too long ago. I doubt they are in the market for more parks.

Besides, why would they buy BGE when King's Dominion is just 50 minutes away? No one wants to compete with themselves, do they?

I have an idea....why don't all of us dedicated TPI posters band together and buy the AB parks ourselves???

TPI Gardens. I like it.

From Daniel Williams
Posted July 18, 2008 at 8:03 AM
Tyler: That's funny, because it wasn't THAT long ago (ok, 15 years) that WCUSA wasn't owned by Busch. I specifically remember the transition (having joined WCUSA the year after the transition).

From hannah caller
Posted July 18, 2008 at 9:08 AM
James that is a fantastic idea, just think we could use people like the notorious Jake Rivers as a ride tester instead of dummys filled with water or whatever they use!!

From Missy Renee
Posted July 18, 2008 at 9:15 AM
I also remember when Water Country, USA was NOT owned by AB, Daniel. I cannot remember exactly when they acquired the park, though. I don't have any memories associated with WC during that time period that would give me an idea of the approximate year. I just remember commenting at the time that the overall appearance and beauty of the park would be greatly improved once AB got their hands on it. Just the addition of the tropical flowers and plants, and the typical AB landscaping made a huge difference. And AB (up until this point) always had a reputation for maintaining parks and consistently adding new rides. Please, oh please, oh please, don't let that change now.....(it never hurts to be optimistic)

From Daniel Williams
Posted July 18, 2008 at 9:51 AM
I want to say the transition started in '93-'94ish, but I started in '96, and there was still changes going on then.

From James Rao
Posted July 18, 2008 at 2:39 PM
Hannah, how would using JR be different than using a dummy filled with water? ;)

From hannah caller
Posted July 19, 2008 at 12:36 AM
James LOL!!

I've just read on Screamscape that Seaworld San Diego has just put their new coaster project for 2010 on hold whilst decisions are made about the future of the parks this cant be good, i really hope that the construction of Manta at Seaworld Orlando does not go the same way.

From Donna Tolliver-Walker
Posted July 19, 2008 at 7:17 PM
I heard they already made the switch and the change was not noticeable.

(Referring to the new ride testers.)

From john smith
Posted July 19, 2008 at 7:46 PM
well all i can say is nothing will change at the parks for the rest of the year. sadly though that includes the sesame street project at BGE which originally was planned to be anounced this summer. on the other hand though expect all howl-o-scream projects to continue. just like the one behind roman rapids.

"john smith"

From hannah caller
Posted July 23, 2008 at 7:13 AM
I've just found this on screamscape(sorry if me posting this from another site is frowned upon!!).............I do have a very good rumor about who may really be set to take on the Busch parks. This rumor has leaked in from half a dozen sources with connections to Busch locations all around the country and actually would make the perfect fit. After all, who would be a better owner for the Busch Entertainment theme parks than the Busch family themselves.
Yes, you read that right. According to numerous sources the Busch family may have a silent agreement with InBev to buy the Busch parks. This makes sense since it’s well known that the Busch family has a very strong attachment to their theme parks, which have now separated themselves from the St. Louis HQ to have their own offices in Orlando. By coincidence, August Busch III also has a large second home not too far from Orlando as well. What isn’t known is if the Busch family will take on this plan alone or if they will try to seek out some investment partners. Either way, I’m hoping this rumor turns out to be true.

From Gareth H
Posted July 23, 2008 at 7:55 AM
Now that may work and actually be pretty good!

From hannah caller
Posted July 23, 2008 at 12:35 PM
It would be the best possible outcome i think!!

From Daniel Williams
Posted July 24, 2008 at 8:03 AM
I'm not sure its the best possible outcome, but it does seem to be the best of the foreseeable options.

While the Busch family owning the parks would keep the same culture, I'm not sure that BEC would have the same financial stability that they do now. Would the Buschs eventually spin BEC public?

From Andrew Holden
Posted July 25, 2008 at 9:49 AM
I'm curious about what will happen to the Dubai parks. It would really be a bummer if 6 Flags or Cedar Fair bought it. If that happens, I could definately see the quality of the Busch parks going down. Maybe if Nakheel were to buy them (the people building the Dubai parks) things would be okay.

From scooby doobydoo
Posted July 25, 2008 at 2:56 PM
Okay i can deny those rumors. People just dont close parks down for good that makes good money.
They would probably sell them off.

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