Blackstone Seeks to Sell Universal Studios Florida Holdings
The offer was reported in a filing by Universal City Development Partners Ltd. NBC, controlled by Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), 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. (GE) 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 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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