|Traded as||NYSE: SEAS|
|Industry||Theme Park operator|
|Founded||March 15, 1959|
|Headquarters||Orlando, Florida, United States|
|Key people||Jim Atchison, CEO|
|Revenue||USD$1.178 billion (2006)|
|Operating income||US$232.8 million (2006)|
|Net income||US$144.3 million (2006)|
|Owner(s)||The Blackstone Group (Majority)|
SeaWorld Entertainment (abbreviated SeaWorld and formerly Busch Entertainment and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment) is a family entertainment company owned by The Blackstone Group. SeaWorld is responsible for the operation and maintenance of eleven theme parks located throughout the United States. Formerly a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch since 1959, under which it was known as Busch Entertainment Corporation, SeaWorld Parks is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.
In 2009, SeaWorld's properties had a combined total of approximately 23.5 million visitors, making it the fifth-largest amusement park operator in the world. Company officials have disputed this estimate in the past, as internal attendance figures, which they choose not to make public, reflect higher attendance than does the cited estimate. For the 2008 study, SeaWorld officials singled out the company's most-visited park, SeaWorld Orlando. The 2008 report estimated that 5.9 million people visited the park, a decrease of almost three percent year-over-year. If the 2007 report's original estimates are used, attendance rose by 100,000 visitors. After the release of the 2008 study, a spokesperson for SeaWorld voiced the company's continued displeasure with the study, saying, "They are wrong across the board."
In October 2009, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced plans to sell the division to the Blackstone Group private-equity firm in order to reduce the debt load generated by InBev's 2008 purchase of Anheuser-Busch. The sale was completed on December 1, 2009 and with it came a new company name, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Anheuser-Busch initially created the subsidiary to run the various Busch Gardens parks. The parks at Tampa, Florida and Williamsburg, Virginia were located adjacent to breweries, and the parks included tours of the facilities and even free samples of the products made there. In 1989, Anheuser-Busch purchased the theme park unit of publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, which included the SeaWorld family of parks. The purchase also included two other parks in Central Florida: Cypress Gardens and Boardwalk and Baseball. Boardwalk and Baseball was promptly closed, while Cypress Gardens was later sold and transformed into Legoland Florida, which opened in October 2011. The parks were managed out of Anheuser-Busch's headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri until 2008, when the company relocated the division to Florida, where five of the company's ten parks were located.
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by Brazilian-Belgian brewer InBev. Based on its previous acquisitions, it was widely expected that InBev would later sell off non-core assets in order to pay down the debt created by its purchase of Anheuser-Busch; the theme-park division was considered one of the most likely assets to be sold. In early 2009, InBev began soliciting bids for those assets in advance of an anticipated sale. As part of the plans to shed the division, Busch Entertainment ended the free beer-sampling programs at those parks that had them. Similarly, Busch Entertainment broke from its parent company and terminated a benefit where employees of legal age received two free cases of Anheuser-Busch beer per month, a benefit that continued for the rest of the company. At the time, InBev was thought to be considering selling the parks to the highest bidder, or spinning off Busch Entertainment as an independent company. It was suggested at one point that NBC Universal was interested in purchasing Busch Entertainment, and folding it into the Universal Studios Theme Parks chain, but no official bid for the company surfaced. However, other asset sales, such as the sale of Tsingtao Brewery, and an issuance of $3 billion in new long-term debt in May 2009, raised over $11 billion since the start of 2009, temporarily reducing the need to sell Busch Entertainment. Other cited reasons for an apparent reluctance to sell off the company included still-volatile credit markets and receipt of initial bids that were lower than expected.
Acquisition by the Blackstone Group
In late 2009, the Blackstone Group reportedly entered into negotiations to acquire Busch Entertainment. The Blackstone Group already owned a partnership in Universal Orlando Resort, and a significant interest in Merlin Entertainments, which operates attractions and theme parks such as Madame Tussauds and Legoland. Previous estimates have valued Busch Entertainment at somewhere between USD $2.5-3.0 billion. On October 7, 2009, the discussions came to fruition as Anheuser-Busch InBev announced plans to sell Busch Entertainment Corporation to the Blackstone Group in a deal worth approximately USD $2.7 billion.
As part of the deal, Blackstone will maintain the current management team from Busch Entertainment and operate it as a separate entity. Further, Anheuser-Busch will sign a sponsorship agreement with the company, thus allowing the two Busch Gardens parks to keep their current names and promotions, including the "Here's to the Heroes" military appreciation program. In announcing the deal, Busch Entertainment President Jim Atchison said that Blackstone's acquisition brings "an awful lot of strategic vision for us. We're going to continue to grow the business together."
The acquisition would be done with no loss of jobs at the parks or at the company's Orlando headquarters. New departments will be hired to fill positions that would previously been managed by Anheuser-Busch, such as a legal department and procurement staff. The largest proposed change to the operation of the parks would be the removal of Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdale from those parks that currently have them and the removal of the A&Eagle logos.
Initial public offering
On December 27, 2012, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced that it had filed for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. Part of the proceeds from this sale would go to Blackstone group, which would retain a controlling interest in the company. It began trading April 19, 2013 on the New York Stock Exchange with a ticker symbol of SEAS.
Beginning November 9, 2007, the parks collectively became known as Worlds of Discovery. Prior to the introduction of the Worlds of Discovery brand, the parks were marketed as "Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks," emphasizing their animal exhibits and thrill rides. Since the company's sale to Blackstone in 2009, the "Worlds of Discovery" branding is no longer in use.
Busch Gardens parks
- SeaWorld Orlando – Orlando, Florida
- SeaWorld San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas
- SeaWorld San Diego – San Diego, California
- Adventure Island – Tampa, Florida
- Aquatica Orlando – Orlando, Florida
- Aquatica San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas
- Aquatica San Diego – Chula Vista, California (opening Spring 2013)
- Water Country USA – Williamsburg, Virginia
First announced in February 2008, Dubai developer Nakheel planned to license SeaWorld's properties for its own "Worlds of Discovery," with the first parks set to open in 2012. However, the global financial crisis of 2008-09 has prompted both Nakheel and Busch Entertainment to suspend development indefinitely, although both sides expect to move forward when the financial climate improves.
First phase (originally planned for December 2012):
Second phase (originally planned for 2015):
Busch Gardens parks
- Cypress Gardens (Winter Haven, Florida) was purchased alongside the SeaWorld parks in 1989, then sold to the park's management team. The park closed in 2009. Acquired by Merlin Entertainments in 2010, the park now operates as Legoland Florida, which opened in October 2011.
- Boardwalk and Baseball (Haines City, Florida) was purchased alongside the SeaWorld parks in 1989, but was promptly closed.
- PortAventura (Salou, Spain) was constructed in 1997 in a joint venture with Universal Studios and The Tussauds Group. Universal bought out its partners in 2000, but would sell its own interests in the park in 2004.
- Anheuser-Busch 2006 Annual Report, page 63
- Scott Powers (2007-10-25). "Busch Entertainment to call Orlando home". www.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- "Terms and Conditions." SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. Retrieved on February 26, 2010.
- "TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2009". www.themeit.com. 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- Scott Powers (2008-03-14). "Attendance at theme parks continues to skyrocket". www.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
- "TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2008". www.themeit.com. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2009-04-16.[dead link]
- Jason Garcia (2009-04-16). "Report: Theme-park attendance growth stalled in 2008". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Associated Press (2009-10-07). "InBev Selling Busch Gardens, SeaWorld Parks". TheLedger.com. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- Christopher Leonard (2008-07-15). "Can InBev sell Anheuser-Busch theme parks?". FoxNews.com. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
- "Sale expected soon on Busch theme parks". Virginia Gazette. 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2009-01-23.[dead link]
- Barton Eckert (2009-01-06). "No more free beer at Busch Gardens Williamsburg". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
- Jeremiah McWilliams (2009-06-24). "Free beer continues at Anheuser-Busch; What does Brito think?". stltoday.com. Retrieved 2009-10-26.[dead link]
- "Will Universal, SeaWorld combine forces?". Orlando Sentinel. 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- Jason Garcia (2009-05-13). "Is urgency to sell SeaWorld, other Busch parks ebbing?". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
- Jessica Hall and Megan Davies (2009-10-02). "Blackstone near deal to buy theme parks: sources". Reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
- Jason Garcia (2009-10-07). "SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens, other parks sold to Blackstone Group". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- Garcia, Jason (2012-12-27). "SeaWorld files to sell stock in IPO". orlandosentinel.com. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
- "Sea World, other Florida attractions, offer multi-park discounts". The Associated Press (USA Today). 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- "Busch plans four parks in Dubai". St. Petersburg Times. Archived from the original on 2008-03-02. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
- Beth Kassab (2009-02-04). "No Busch Gardens, SeaWorld for Dubai". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-02-04.