Merlin IPO suggests purchase of Busch Entertainment

Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:17 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Rumors of a potential sale of Busch Entertainment Corp. were rekindled this week by news that Merlin Entertainments Group, long thought to be a potential Busch suitor, is preparing to go public. Merlin is close to finalizing a plan for an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange, according to a report last weekend in The Independent of London. Merlin is owned by a private-equity giant, the Blackstone Group, which also holds a 50 percent stake in Universal Orlando.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:19 AM

Gosh, where have I heard this before?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:27 AM

Smarty pants.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:33 AM

Merlin is owned by a private-equity giant, the Blackstone Group, which also holds a 50 percent stake in Universal Orlando.

That certainly makes things interesting for Central Florida. SW and UO already have a loose marketing alliance with the Flex Ticket thing. If they were even more closely aligned...

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:36 AM

Screamscape reported Merlin as being interested back in June. But of course they are never reliable. ;-)

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:45 AM

Well, with very few large players in the business, and with the top two dealing with huge debt right now, it was kind of a no brainer in terms of the most likely candidate.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 11:09 AM

A lot of companies have been interested for a long time, probably since before the AB-InBev merger. Blackstone's business is growth, so you knew they weren't going to sit on the sidelines. My point was more along the lines of near-future gonna happen.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 11:27 AM

My biggest question is how long before the IPO? That would probably give us a good idea as to the timeframe of the purchase idea if they really are serious about it.

EDIT: Just read an article on MarketWatch that says early 2010 for the IPO.
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/citi-goldman-frontrunners-for-merl...2009-09-06

Last edited by maXairMike, Thursday, September 10, 2009 11:28 AM
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Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:15 PM

Jeff said:
Gosh, where have I heard this before?

LOL, I honestly had no clue this might be coming. I was commenting solely based on what I witnessed in the UK. Does make sense, though, since the philosophies seem closely aligned.

Signed, the profit prophet... ;)

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:45 PM

I am growing tired of "waiting" to see whats going to happen. I think "most" of us can agree the parks will never be like they once were when they were under A-B / BEC only... I am not impressed with whats happened since the Inbev takeover, so I would rather the parks go ahead and be sold so we can get that "overwith" and see what changes if any the new owners bring.

I am so sad to see many things changed at my beloved BGW.

This year alone,

1. Brewmasters gone

2. Big Bad Wolf gone

and a few other small changes that are really have and will affect my park experience.

Just get the deal done so we can see what happens.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 1:28 PM

I completely disagree. I think there's outstanding potential for the parks. You're not going to get the beer stuff back if you're not owned by a beer company, and BBW had reached its end.

Internally there are a lot of things that InBev has done that are just outright asinine in the name of cutting expenses, but keep in mind that they're doing it to make the unit appear more sell worthy. It's like doing a little painting and landscaping at your house to make it more attractive to potential buyers. There's little doubt in my mind that any buyer who already gets theme parks will do the right thing.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 2:34 PM

I think people fail to remember that Busch Gardens isn't named for a beer, but for a man with a vision. If beer was the main attraction it would have been Budweiser Gardens or Six Beers over Virginia...

Also, I assume I am not the only one getting tired of hearing the whining over In-Bev ruining the parks. BGE plans things far in advance, and the removal of BBW is no exception. They have other plans for that area in the park, and BBW served its purpose well for 25 years. If rumor is true, and a new country is coming to BGE, then that's something thats been years in the making, something that would have started before In-Bev. and If I recall correctly, wasn't the free beer removed from BGE before In-Bev?

On a side note, instead of a new land, how about retheming New France. Not sure, but I think they were taking geography lessons from Britney Spears when they though that Canada is a European country...

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:52 PM

phoenixphan :-) said:
If I recall correctly, wasn't the free beer removed from BGE before In-Bev?

No it was removed after and the decision was made by AB-IB for various reasons. Mostly financial, but other was political to "sever" the bond between the two organizations and make them a bit more individual.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 5:09 PM

It's been in the news that Blackstone was planning on buying the parks and financing it through a stock offering for over a year. They've been waiting for market conditions to improve so they could get more money. An IPO last year would have been terrible.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/markets/2794208/Thorpe-Park-owner-looks-at-bid-for-US-attractions.html

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 5:14 PM

I'm sure with Blackstone's ownership of Universal Orlando among many other parks they have plenty of experience and won't ruin the Busch parks.

Imagine if Cedar Fair got a hold of these parks. Haha goodbye trees and hello land of concrete.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 6:29 PM

phoenixphan :-) said:
I think people fail to remember that Busch Gardens isn't named for a beer, but for a man with a vision. If beer was the main attraction it would have been Budweiser Gardens or Six Beers over Virginia...

Also, I assume I am not the only one getting tired of hearing the whining over In-Bev ruining the parks. BGE plans things far in advance, and the removal of BBW is no exception. They have other plans for that area in the park, and BBW served its purpose well for 25 years. If rumor is true, and a new country is coming to BGE, then that's something thats been years in the making, something that would have started before In-Bev. and If I recall correctly, wasn't the free beer removed from BGE before In-Bev?

On a side note, instead of a new land, how about retheming New France. Not sure, but I think they were taking geography lessons from Britney Spears when they though that Canada is a European country...

Well, Brewmasters was removed from BGW this season, the Hospitality House was removed mid 1990s.

A country has been rumored for so many years, we all have thought "Spain" would make the most sense. I hope it happens. I was told back in May that there was a large expansion planned at BGW for 2010 by a high up at the park. I now have been told that everything has been put on hold...

Personally I think we will see a B&M flyer at BGW sometime soon, it just makes the most sense for them at this point. Anyone remember the rumor, "Drachen Flyer" haha

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 7:45 PM

Everything is on hold because they're trying to sell. Buyers don't want to be tied to contracts they had no part in creating.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 8:17 PM

rollergator said:

Jeff said:
Gosh, where have I heard this before?

LOL, I honestly had no clue this might be coming...

Funny. I knew exactly what Jeff was insinuating, not because of inside info, but because I've read about it so many times. i kind of thought that everyone knew that this might happen. :)

BDesvignes said:


Imagine if Cedar Fair got a hold of these parks. Haha goodbye trees and hello land of concrete.

Goodbye Big Bird, hello Snoopy.

Goodbye Pirates 4D, hello Snoopy on Ice.

Goodbye traditional log flume, hello 21 more rollercoasters.

lol

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 9:22 PM

phoenixphan :-) said:

On a side note, instead of a new land, how about retheming New France. Not sure, but I think they were taking geography lessons from Britney Spears when they though that Canada is a European country...

I suppose since the official name of the park no longer includes "Europe," they may not feel restricted into what countries they include. Then again, I wonder why any notion of European culture tends to stop on this side of the Danube River. After all, we all know that roller coasters originated far to the east, and there are plenty of ideas that could be used for food, entertainment, and theming that hasn't already been done.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 9:26 PM

I doubt CO woul get a hold of the parks. For one, you'd have BGW in copetition with KD.

The ONLY park they might have the remoyest intrest in MIGHT be BGA in Florida.

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