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Blackstone Seeks to Sell Universal Studios Florida Holdings

Blackstone Group LP offered to sell its 50 percent stake in two Universal Studios theme parks in Florida back to NBC Universal, triggering the possible divestment of both partners’ stakes.

The offer was reported in a filing by Universal City Development Partners Ltd. NBC, controlled by Comcast Corp., has until June 12 to accept the offer, according to the filing.

“Blackstone’s action could result in a wide range of potential ownership, leverage and rating outcomes for Universal Orlando over the next 12 to 18 months,” Moody’s Investors Service said today in a report.

The move, coming less than two months after Philadelphia-based Comcast took control of NBC Universal, forces the new owner to buy out Blackstone’s stake or facilitate a sale of the theme parks.

“We are studying the proposal and considering our options,” NBC Universal spokeswoman Cindy Gardner said in a statement. The New York-based entertainment company is 49 percent owned by General Electric Co. and also operates a film studio, cable channels USA and Bravo, and the NBC broadcast network.

Blackstone, the New York-based private equity firm, would have 270 days to sell the theme parks to a third party if NBC Universal declined to buy the stake, according to the filing.

Director Steven Spielberg has a consulting agreement that entitles him to a portion of the parks’ revenue.

Spielberg Role

Spielberg may have the right to sell the consulting agreement to a third-party buyer, Moody’s said. Starting in June 2017, Spielberg has the right to terminate the consulting agreement and receive a one-time payment for its value or an ownership interest in the parks, Moody’s said.

Chip Sullivan, a spokesman for Spielberg’s Dreamworks Studios, declined to comment.

The Orlando theme parks consist of two separate gated attractions, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, along with CityWalk, a dining, retail and entertainment complex.

The parks “benefited significantly” from the opening of a new ride, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” in June 2010, the partnership said. In 2010, revenue increased by 41 percent to $1.1 billion, and net income increased to $148.4 million from $23.5 million the prior year.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, lost 33 cents to $24.16 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have gained 10 percent this year. GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, fell 31 cents to $19.61.

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