Universal Orlando Sale Completed

Filed under: Orlando Theme Parks |

NBCUniversal, a unit of cable TV giant Comcast Corp.,  closed its deal on Friday to buy the half of Universal Orlando that it didn’t already own. This now means that Central Florida’s No. 2 theme-park resort is in the hands of a single owner for the first time in its 21-year history.

NBCUniversal apparently paid $1.025 billion to the Blackstone Group to purchase the private-equity firm’s stake in Universal Orlando, which includes the Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks and the CityWalk retail district.

“This is a very special and positive moment for us,” Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Parks & Resorts, said in a note Friday to Universal Orlando’s 16,000 employees. “For the first time ever, we have one owner. Think of it as if we have strengthened our family ties. And that family is a very strong global entertainment company with deep understanding, respect and enthusiasm for our business.”

Williams said the deal ensures “stability and strength” for Universal Orlando, the biggest and most profitable Universal theme park in the world. NBCUniversal also owns Universal Studios Hollywood in Southern California and operates Universal Studios parks in Japan and Singapore.“We believe we will be part of the NBCUniversal family for a very long time,” he added.

NBCUniversal said it financed the purchase through a combination of cash on hand; borrowings under an existing credit facility; and a one-year, $250 million loan from another Comcast affiliate. Following the sale, NBCUniversal said it would take a couple of steps to reduce the borrowing costs on Universal Orlando’s approximate $1.5 billion debt load. The media company said it will invest an additional $200 million in the resort, allowing Universal Orlando to pay down a portion of the bonds it is carrying, and loan it another $600 million, allowing Universal Orlando to pay off a credit facility.

It’s an exciting time for Universal Orlando and this can only be seen as good news. One owner with one vision is what the destination needs and hopefully the company can become more coherent with it’s marketing instead of simply relying on past reputation and Harry Potter to draw the crowds in.

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