Busch & SeaWorld Parks For Sale

Theme Park News

The thing I’ve been dreading for months is starting to happen. The newly formed Anhueser-Busch InBev is starting to sell off Busch Entertainment Corp., the parent company of  the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks around the country. The writing had been on the wall since AB was purchased by InBev last year. Almost immediately, analyst predicted that the Belgian brewer would likely sell of the non-core businesses and focus on beer. UK-based Merlin Entertainment and Spanish company Parques Reunidos are among the earyl bidders.

Read the full story at the Orlando Sentinel

Six Flags and Disney have been mentioned as bidders, but I can’t see either of them really making a play for the Busch parks. Six Flags had a better year in 2008, but they’re still strapped for cash. I can’t recall Disney ever buying a pre-existing park. Besides, if they Disney-fied several regional parks around the country, then Disney World and Disneyland might lose their appeal as a destination. It’d be good for me as it’s only a matter of time before my daughter’s going to want to go to Disney World. I’d much rather drive up to Virginia for a Disney fix rather than fly or drive 8 hours to Orlando. Still, I doubt Disney would buy the parks.

What’s Your Take?
Who do you think will buy the Busch Parks? Leave a comment below.

3 Comments

  1. Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. It seems HIGHLY unlikely that Merlin has or will bid. They are owned by Blackstone, and if you read the news and even hear the comments of their CEO, they're effectively sitting everything out for a year or two, especially of this magnitude. PLUS, Blackstone's agreement with Universal prohibits Blackstone or any Blackstone affiliated company from owning ANY theme park in Florida, and if Blackstone wants to buy any park in the US, they have to get Universal's permission first. Blackstone is not bigger than GE, and GE isn't going to have one of their better performing business units cannibalized by a partner.

    Now Parques? Really? Candover Capital, who owns Parques has invested less than a billion in this business unit. I suspect in this economy that you won't see them coughing up three or four times their total commitment so far into a chain in the US.

    As for other suitors, look at potentially Russian money (they just bought Hard Rock Park), or, as for domestic money, it could be a play for Warren Buffet, or even some of the money in Las Vegas (don't let the gaming stocks fool you, there is a LOT of cash in certain people's pockets in Vegas, and some have even been nosing around acquisitions in this industry – they're looking to diversify). Forget about the likes of Dubai. If their government is borrowing billions from UAE, that part of the world is slowly unraveling.

    My two cents…

  3. Thanks for the analysis. I just hope the new owners are theme park operators of some sort and not just a bunch of investors. Even if they have to sell of the parks separately because no one company can afford all ten. PARC Management has done well with the former Six Flags parks, but if they weren't able to seal the deal on Hard Rock Park, these Busch parks must be way out of their price range. Now I'm really worried that my beloved Busch parks may be ruined…

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