The pact marks another sign of Comcast’s commitment to the theme park business that has generated solid growth in the five-plus years since the cable giant bought up NBCUniversal. Comcast is buying out partners in the Osaka-based theme park that include Goldman Sachs, former Universal Studios Japan CEO Glenn Gumpel and private equity firms Owl Creek Asset Management and MBK Partners. The deal is expected to close by the end of April.
The Universal Studios parks in Hollywood and Orlando, Fla., have been consistent contributors to Comcast’s bottom line, and the company has invested big in infrastructure improvements and new attractions such as the Harry Potter-themed installations. Universal Studios Japan opened its “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction in 2014 and will unveil “Minion Park,” tied to the “Despicable Me” franchise, later this year.
“Universal Studios Japan is an amazing and incredibly successful theme park,” said Tom Williams, chairman-CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts. “This acquisition will bring an even stronger future for the theme park, its guests and its team members. We are thrilled USJ will fully be part of the Universal family and look forward to continuing to create a remarkable experience for our guests.”
Early on after its NBCU acquisition, Comcast expected to sell the Universal theme parks but execs changed their tune after becoming more familiar with the businesses. Comcast’s acquisition last year of DreamWorks Animation was driven in part by the ability to use its characters and properties as fodder for the parks.
Universal Studios Japan opened in 2001. Comcast is in the midst of building a theme park in Beijing, and it has a licensed Universal Studios venture in Singapore.