The buyout chatter was true. Blackstone Group
One of Blackstone's buyout funds will pay $2.3 billion for the parks as well as $400 million in capped future park earnings.
Blackstone is getting plenty of popular attractions in the deal, anchored by the Sea World and Busch Gardens theme-park chains. It will go well with other Blackstone fund stakes that include Legoland, Madame Tussauds, and half of the Universal Orlando resort.
Unlike regional operators Cedar Fair
The possibilities are endless now that Blackstone owns all of the major Central Florida theme parks outside Disney's massive resort. It probably won't be long before annual passes are offered that cover all of the gated attractions. It's also now just a matter of time before Legoland Florida becomes a reality. At the very least, a scaled-back Legoland will probably open within many Busch parks.
So will Blackstone be the next Disney? No. It can't. All it owns are the parks. Disney's empire includes cable channels, cruise ships, and movie studios, too. Disney's parks provide a profitable way for the family-entertainment giant to market and expand their character properties. This summer's $4 billion deal to acquire Marvel Entertainment
Blackstone isn't as fortunate. It will have to run its theme parks as standalone businesses. Instead of building on proprietary characters outside Sea World's Shamu, it will have to fork over licensing fees to content creators. This is the same reason it didn't make a lot of sense for the character-rich CBS
This doesn't necessarily make Blackstone's purchase of Busch Entertainment a bad one. Cedar Fair has run a successful park chain for decades without dabbling in content creation. Blackstone will, however, have to operate its parks as isolated moneymakers. But as long as it continues to invest in new rides and experiences to keep the turnstiles clicking, InBev's loss will surely be Blackstone's gain.
Do you think Blackstone acquisition will make the Busch Entertainment parks better or worse? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. He owns shares in Disney and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.