SeaWorld theme parks pass from brewery to entertainment group
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2009:
SAN DIEGO–The private equity firm Blackstone Group and
Anheuser-Busch InBev jointly announced on October 7, 2009 that
Blackstone will buy the 10 theme parks belonging to the Busch
Entertainment Corporation for $2.7 billion–including the SeaWorld
marine mammal parks in San Diego, San Antonio, and Atlanta, the
Discovery Cove swim-with-dolphins attraction in Orlando, and the
Busch Gardens zoos in Florida and Virginia.
“Blackstone owns half of Univer-sal Orlando and all of Merlin
Entertain-ments, a British company that runs theme parks in Europe,
Legolands in the United States, the London Eye Wheel, and Madame
Tussaud’s wax museums,” reported St. Petersburg Times staff writer
Mark Albright. “Blackstone pledged minimal changes, no consolidation
among its diverse parks for now, and retained management at all 10
Busch Entertainment had 2008 income of $1.4 billion.
Blackstone borrowed $1.3 billion to complete the deal. Unknown is
whether Blackstone will continue SeaWorld support of the
Hubbs-Sea-World Research Institute and marine mammal stranding rescue
beyond present commitments, and whether SeaWorld might sell parks or
animals to help pay down the debt.
“We have been watching this for some time. It’s too early to
know if it’s going to be business as usual for these marine mammals
with jobs,” marine mammal captivity opponent Ric O’Barry told ANIMAL
“So far it’s business as usual,” said SeaWorld senior
scientist Daniel Odell.
The Busch Entertainment empire began with a petting zoo begun
by Auggie Busch as a gathering point for people beginning tours of
the Tampa brewery he built in 1959. His son August Busch bought
SeaWorld in 1989. Founded in 1965, the SeaWorld chain then included
four marine mammal parks. The former SeaWorld Ohio was sold to Six
Flags Entertainment in 2001, and was closed in 2004.