NBCU buys Universal Orlando stake

$1 billion-plus deal gives conglom 100% of resort

NBCUniversal has reaffirmed its commitment to the theme park biz, striking a deal with Blackstone Group to purchase the private equity giant’s 50% stake in Universal Orlando.

The company will pay $1.025 billion to Blackstone, The transaction puts the total value of the park at about $3.165 billion and is expected to close by July 1.

Once the deal closes, NBC-Universal and its affiliates will own 100% interest in Universal Orlan-do, which is comprised of UniversalStudios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk.

Following Comcast Corp.’s takeover of NBCU, there had been speculation that the conglom would seek to exit the theme park business. But NBCU chief exec Steve Burke has deep experience in the arena through his tenure at Disney in the 1980s and 1990s. Burke was dispatched to Paris in 1993 by then Mouse House CEO Michael Eisner to help rescue the fledgling Euro Disney park. When Burke left several years later, the park was profitable.

“The acquisition consolidates our ownership and confirms our long-term commitment to Universal Orlando and the theme park business,” Burke said.

“Universal Orlando is a consistent and significant driver of operating and free cashflow and is performing extremely well. It has a superb management team and exciting growth opportunities. This purchase of the Blackstone interest is attractively valued and represents strong financial returns for NBCUniversal.”

NBCU’s purchase will be financed with cash on hand at NBCUniversal, borrowings under NBCUniversal’s existing revolving credit facility and a one-year $400 million note to NBCUniversal from a Comcast affiliate.

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