Comcast Buying 51% Stake in Universal Studios Japan

Comcast Buying 51% Stake in Universal

Comcast Corp. will acquire a 51 percent stake in Japanese theme park owner Universal Studios Japan for $1.5 billion.

Comcast is making the deal, announced Monday in Japan, through its NBCUniversal unit. The transaction provides that CEO Glenn Gumpel will step down and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., MBK Partners Ltd. and Gumpel will retain minority stakes in the 14-year-old theme park in Osaka.

Gumpel’s successor will be Jean-Louis Bonnier. He has served as CFO for Universal Parks and Resorts since 2005, leading financial planning, controllership and financial operations and playing a significant role in strategic initiatives for the division.

Gumpel has been CEO since 2004. Universal Studios Japan operates as an independent company under license from NBCUniversal.

The park opened a new $400 million Harry Potter attraction in July, 2014, with the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction and Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster. The park recorded 11.8 million visitors last year, up 16.8%, and revenues jumped 44% to JPY138.5 billion.

“We are excited to expand our global footprint with this wonderful theme park in Osaka and are excited by the opportunities that lie ahead in Japan and all of Asia,” said Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast.  “This investment represents a huge opportunity and commitment to creating value for our shareholders and continuing to grow internationally.”

Through its full acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2013, Comcast owns both Universal Studios and Universal Theme Parks. Comcast said the purchase will allow Comcast NBCUniversal and its theme park and resorts division to expand the Osaka park — along with aligning its strategy for its U.S. parks in Orlando and Hollywood.

Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said in a statement, “We want to expand our theme park business around the world and this investment in Universal Studios Japan fits perfectly with that strategy. Our theme parks in the U.S. have performed exceptionally well and we look forward to working with our partners to achieve that success in Japan as we introduce significant attractions at USJ over the next five years.”

Comcast paid General Electric Co. $16.7 billion in 2013 for NBCUniversal, which gave Comcast control of the NBC broadcast network, cable channels MSNBC and Bravo and the U.S. theme parks.

In April, Comcast dropped its bid to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion in the wake of opposition on antitrust grounds.