SeaWorld Entertainment’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction, opening today at the company’s namesake theme park in Orlando, features 50-foot glaciers, 2,500 glass icicles and up-close encounters with 230 penguins, dusted daily with 6,000 pounds of snow. “It is the coolest attraction in the world,” President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison said in an interview. “You kind of check out of the rest of SeaWorld and find yourself in Antarctica.” To Atchison, it’s also an example of how private-equity firms, often criticized for dismantling the companies they buy, can jumpstart a business like SeaWorld. Blackstone Group LP bought the company, which owns 11 parks in five states, for $2.3 billion from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV in December 2009. As a small part of the world’s largest brewer, SeaWorld was starved. Atchison, who took Orlando, Florida-based SeaWorld public last month in an $807 million share sale, called the last years under the brewer’s ownership “a drought period.” [Blackstone] gave Atchison, who has held executive roles with SeaWorld since 1998, the go-ahead to crank up capital spending — from $120 million in 2010 to $225 million the following year and $192 million in 2012. [Bloomberg, related]
If the private equity firm is really serious about an IPO of SeaWorld, these guys are obviously the best people to peddle the company’s wares. For all we know, last month’s visit was a dry run of the roadshow presentation. [Bloomberg]
A couple of SeaWorld employees during yesterday’s visit to Blackstone, which owns the animal theme parks/oceanariums/marine mammal burlesque theaters/what have you. Whether it was nerves over being in the presence of the boss or simply a matter of not being housebroken, the duo “left some unsolicited presents on a carpet and a conference table,” Dealbook reported, which seems a bit uncalled for to us. They were embarrassed enough! No need to tell the whole world. Read more »
By now you’ve probably heard about the killer whale, Tilikum, that savagely murdered an SeaWorld employee today in front of a packed audience (according to a guest, the trainer was “thrashed around pretty good” and at one point, one of her shoes flew off). A devastating tragedy, and something that perhaps calls for an avenging. By whom? Stephen Schwarzman, ’cause Blackstone owns SeaWorld.