Universal Orlando Faces Forced Sale by Private Equity Firm

Okay. Here’s the problem with private equity firms, they’re only in it for the money. That’s not a secret, but it is problem if your brand depends on consistency of service. That’s exactly the situation Universal Orlando Resort faces now that the Blackstone Group has decided its time to execute their option to sell their share (50%) in the resort. Blackstone’s move will force NBCUniversal to buy out their share or see the whole resort put up for sale by to the highest bidder.

This article in the Orlando Sentinel goes into some of the various permutations around the potential sale.

There is some worrisome potential results in there, if the resort is sold to a third party, whomever ends up with the bag could lose all the licensing deals that were exclusive to NBCUniversal. Disney would back get those Marvel properties they want a lot sooner, the Harry Potter franchise could be pulled, even Dr. Suess could pack his books and move along. They might just as well close the doors of Islands of Adventure if that happens.

I had been hoping that the brain trust at Blackstone would see what a great combination their Merlin Entertainment Group and SeaWorld investments has going in the Orlando area and add the Universal brand to it. This would create mega-park group equal to Disney’s Orlando presence. Four main parks (Two at Universal, Seaworld, Legoland FL), three water parks (Wet’n’Wild, Aquatica, and Legoland FL’s park), plus Discovery Cove. All they would need is a transportation system (bus system to start at least) to tie it all together.

I suppose that could still happen if NBCUniversal fails to move and the whole park goes up for sale. There’s nothing to prevent NBCUniversal and Merlin from entering into a similar agreement that Blackstone and NBCUniversal has now. Which, come to think of it, may be Blackstone’s end game here. After all why would they want to sell short on what’s likely to be a cash-cow for years to come, at least as long as Harry Potter continues to produce.

It’s all about the money.

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11 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Faces Forced Sale by Private Equity Firm


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