Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

“Disney’s America” One Step Closer To Coming To Virginia?

As I’ve been speculating for sometime now, it appears that Belgian brewer InBev that acquired Anheuser-Busch last year is getting ready to sell Busch Gardens / SeaWorld.

From the Financial Times:

Busch Entertainment, the group’s theme park business, which owns SeaWorld Orlando, is expected to be one of the first business units put up for sale with a possible price of up to $4bn.

FT lists a number of potential bidders for the properties including U.S. companies Disney, Universal  and Six Flags as well as British companies Merlin Entertainments and Candover (which owns Parques Reunidos.)  The strengthening of the U.S. dollar may make such a purchase less attractive to European buyers at this point in time, though.  (Last July when the merger was first approved, a weak dollar made these companies strong contenders as the property then would have been a bargain for them.)  Furthermore, both Merlin and Candover seem to be relatively small potatoes when compared to the Busch Entertainment properties contained in this sale and certainly when put up against the U.S. bidders.  On the domestic front, Six Flags was losing money before the recession hit, so I’d take them out of the running despite their statement that they’ll ask for the prospectus.  That leaves Disney and Universal as the most likely purchasers.

Neither company is immune to the recession and both recently shed employees.  That being said, Disney offered voluntary buyouts to executives while Universal went straight to layoffs.  That would seem to indicate that Disney is the most financially sound of all the potential bidders.

All this would seem to point to Virginia being one step closer to bringing Disney’s America here and all the economic benefits it will entail for the Commonwealth.  And remember, if this happens, the first place to raise the idea and push for it was Virginia Virtucon!

And, as an aside, can’t you just picture this now?

I’d definitely want to get a park hopper pass the next time I’m in Orlando if it would get me into both the Magic Kingdom AND Seaworld!

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3 Responses to ““Disney’s America” One Step Closer To Coming To Virginia?”

  1. Ariel

    Everyone reposts the FT story, but here are the facts:

    Blackstone, which owns Melins, is BARRED from buying any theme park company in the US without the consent of Universal who is their partner in Orlando. Universal is not about to let their partner buy a competitor in their own backyard. Also, Blackstone and Merlin lack the capital to do a deal, as does just about everyone else.

    Disney will not buy someone else’s brand. Period. They tried it with a children’s furniture company and sold it a few year’s later. They are building a park in Shanghai and are remodeling DCA, they are not going to buy ten parks in 5 markets as the logistics don’t work for them.

    • Riley

      What you forget about Disney is that they DID try to buy Knotts Berry Farms in Calif. just in the past few years (they were going to transform it into Disney’s America after plans for it in Prince William County fell through back in ’94.) So, there is precedence for them looking to buy someone else’s brand. And frankly, there is no better brand, other than Disney (and even that is debatable) than Busch Entertainment. There’s a reason why Busch Gardens Williamsburg has won the award as the most beautiful theme park in the world for a number of years running. Plus Disney reps have reportedly been to Williamsburg to scope out the property.

  2. KFD4EDU

    I agree, Riley, that no park or experience comes close to that of Busch Gardens. The thought of Six Flags buying them makes me ill. Disney is nice, but not in the well kept, homey way that Busch Gardens is. I just don’t want to think about any of it! Can’t ANYTHING that’s good just stay the same? I’m already looking very forward to ChristmasTown at Busch Gardens this year, hopefully they hang in a little while longer.

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