Sale of SeaWorld officially announced

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Sea World's Famous Killer Wale Show (Photo from 'Derek Baird' via Filckr)

Sea World's Famous Killer Wale Show (Photo from 'Derek Baird' via Filckr)

SeaWorld, one of San Diego’s most recognized icons and one of its top tourist attractions is being sold. It’s finally official that SeaWorld, which draws an average of over 4,000,000 visitors per year in San Diego, is to have a new owner after months of rumors and speculation.

Current owner, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced today that The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, will purchase the entertainment subsidiary of the Busch Entertainment Group, which includes SeaWorld and several other entertainment venues.

The announced price was $2.7 billion, with a cash payment of $2.3 billion, plus a future payment of up to $400 million tied to Blackstone’s return on its initial investment.

The Blackstone Group already enjoys significant holdings in several amusement parks, including a 50 percent stake in Universal Orlando. Under the agreement, the Entertainment Group division will remain a separate entity and it intends on retaining the current management. This seems to somewhat in question, though as there are definite redundancies in the management and operational structure of the respective companies.

All of this is typical ‘corporate speak’ when making an announcement such as this. It definitely appears to be a win-win situation though, since InBev was operating 10 entertainment parks throughout the country, including three SeaWorld parks and two Busch Gardens attractions in Tampa and Williamsburg, VA. All the while Blackstone was looking to add to its stable of venues.

Plus, Entertainer sources indicate that InBev wanted to generate some cash from its acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in mid-2008, this was a match made if not in, close to heaven.

To those of us locals and the millions of tourists who come to the park each year, there will probably be very little difference in the day-to-day experience.

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