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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 602: Universal Holidays & Velocicoaster photo report posted!

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I like how they build a roller coaster in the same time it took them to built new lockers for Harry Potter.   

On Sunday I ventured out to the Universal Orlando Resort for a chance to see the new holiday offerings at the two parks. This year is a little different thanks to COVID-19, but Universal has still man

^Agreed. I think the newer Intamin lapbars are actually the best steel coaster restraint currently being produced. When comparing overhead lapbars on Taron and Blue Fire, I found the Intamin ones to b

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Sort of off topic, but how busy should I expect Universal/IOA to be tomorrow? We are planning to be there for the park opening, and I'd really like to hit The Hulk, some of the Harry Potter stuff, The Simpson's Ride, and anything else I can fit in-Ripsaw, etc. Am I being realistic, or is tomorrow probably going to be a mess?


Thanks in advance for any help.

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NEWS: Blackstone to sell its stake in Universal Orlando

Update: Sale of Universal Orlando closes for $1.025 billion




Private-equity giant The Blackstone Group is looking to unload its stake in Universal Orlando, triggering a chain of events that could ultimately put the entire resort — which is in the midst of its most impressive financial run ever — on the auction block.


Blackstone has offered to sell its half of the resort to fellow co-owner NBCUniversal, the media-and-entertainment conglomerate that was acquired in January by Comcast Corp.


NBCUniversal now has three months — until June 12 — to accept the offer and buy out the private-equity firm. If NBCUniversal turns Blackstone down, it will trigger a provision allowing Blackstone to seek out an outside bidder to buy the entire resort.


A sale would have huge implications for Universal Orlando. Some of the resort's most important licensing contracts — including its agreement with Warner Bros. for the rights to Harry Potter — include provisions in which Universal could lose those rights if it is acquired by a new owner.


The resort could even lose the right to the name "Universal," although any sale would almost certainly only happen if the new buyer had assurances that Universal would maintain the rights to intellectual properties such as Potter.


A spokeswoman for Blackstone declined to comment Wednesday morning. A spokeswoman for NBCUniversal said, "We are studying the proposal and considering our options."


"We have been notified by Blackstone that they are triggering their buy-sell option, and we are evaluating our options, as well," added John Demming, a spokesman for Philadelphia-based Comcast, which in January took control of NBCUniversal from General Electric Co. in a deal valued at roughly $13 billion.


In order to compel NBCUniversal to participate in a sale to a third-party, Blackstone would have to solicit an offer worth at least 90 percent of the value of both parties' interests in Universal as implied by Blackstone's asking price for its own half. Put another way, the outside offer would have to be worth at least 180 percent of the price Blackstone has asked for its 50 percent stake from NBCUniversal.


Blackstone's asking price wasn't disclosed.


A spokesman for Universal Orlando deferred all comments to parent NBCUniversal. But in an email to the resort's roughly 16,000 employees, Universal Orlando Chief Executive Officer John Sprouls said "it's too early for any of us to speculate on what may or may not happen."


"We have worked with several ownership partners throughout our 20-year history and have always been successful, thanks to our great attraction experiences and the world-class service we provide to our guests and to one another," Sprouls wrote. "You can have confidence that Universal Orlando Resort will remain strong and stable."


Blackstone's offer to sell comes with Universal in the midst of the strongest financial run in its history. The two-park resort reported record attendance, revenue and profit during the second half of 2010, following the mid-June opening of the phenomenally popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter in its Islands of Adventure theme park.


Universal drew 11.2 million visitors in 2010, up 20.3 percent from a year ago. The resort's 2011 attendance is up 50 percent so far this year, the resort disclosed this week, as Wizarding World continues to lure crowds.


Universal disclosed Blackstone's offer to sell in a securities document filed Monday. It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.


For Blackstone, Universal's surging financial performance could serve as an opportune moment to cash out. The New York firm, which paid $275 million to buy its stake in Universal from Rank Group PLC in 2000, has now co-owned the resort for nearly 11 years, longer than it typically holds on to such investments.


Blackstone has recently ramped up its theme-park holdings, paying approximately $2.5 billion in late 2009 to buy SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which runs SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens and eight other theme- and water parks around the country. Blackstone also owns a majority stake in Merlin Entertainments Group, which is scheduled to open a Legoland theme park in Central Florida later this year.


But Universal has always posed a more complicated investment, given the 50-50 ownership split. The resort also has a longstanding — and very rich — consulting contract with Steven Spielberg that gives the famed director a measure of control over the resort.


"There's never been a better time in the last decade or more to put this project out there," said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, a Cincinnati consulting business, referring to Universal's recent financial results. "This the best [results] they've ever had. Certainly, no one's seen a performance like this in our industry in decades."


Blackstone's offer comes approximately six weeks after Comcast Corp. closed on its own deal to acquire a majority stake in NBCUniversal. There has been some speculation that the cable giant, which bought NBCUniversal to gain more control on the content that is produced that Comcast distributes, could ultimately seek to unload its theme-park division, though Comcast executives have publicly praised the growth potential of their parks business.


The executive Comcast put in charge of NBCUniversal, Steve Burke, is a former Walt Disney Co. executive who once ran Disneyland Paris. Comcast made an unsuccessful bid to buy Disney in early 2004.


If NBCUniversal isn't interested in taking on Blackstone's half of Universal Orlando, finding an outside buyer could be tricky given Universal's intellectual-property licensing restrictions. Warner Bros., for instance, can cancel Universal's rights to Harry Potter if NBCUniversal no longer owns at least half of the resort, unless the new buyer meets certain "financial and reputation tests."


Even if the new buyer met those criteria, the Warner Bros. contract requires that Universal Orlando continue to managed by NBCUniversal through a licensing agreement. Universal Orlando already has a proposed licensing pact in place with NBCUniversal that could help smooth any ownership transition, according to regulatory filings.


Still, a sale is a "much more difficult scenario once it goes third-party," Speigel said. "But if someone comes around with the right number, money talks."


Should NBCUniversal not buy Blackstone's stake and Blackstone is unable to find another buyer within 270 days — nine months — Blackstone would be prohibited from attempting again for another year.

Edited by Moose
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This seems like a very cagey move by Blackstone. They're trying to sell during an unprecedented and not likely to continue indefinitely upswing in UO's business.

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In all business, we must remember the most important thing: "Sell High, Buy Low." While Universal is having a great run, it makes it VERY attractive to outside investors to buy up the stake- and since Blackstone is getting a premium on it, it makes even more sense.


I'd bet that ComcastNBCUniversalSegeramsGeneralElectricTheKitchesinkandBOB will put a bid in- as to lose all those rights to a separate holding firm would make the property- and the names associated with it- worthless. It just doesn't make sense to have pumped as much money into these projects to walk away with nothing.



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Blackstone may be trying to purchase Comcast's 50% at a discount. If they create a new shell company then they can purchase Comcast's stake using the "drag along" provision in the contract. Basically, if Comcast doesn't want to buy Blackstone's stake then Blackstone has the right to sell both their stake and Comcast's for 90 cents on the dollar of the original offer to any company they wish (even one they control).



Since Comcast may be looking to get out of the theme park after their recent purchase of Universal, this could be viewed as a power move by blackstone.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Elissa this is for you. Cause I know just how much you LOVE WWOHP.


With the unprecedented success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios executives are already wrestling with the question of how and when to expand the perpetually congested 20-acre theme-park-within-a-theme-park at Islands of Adventure in Florida.


Although officials won't discuss specific plans, several signs point to preparations being made for phase two of Wizarding World:


* In January, survey markings that possibly may be mapping out the potential expansion began appearing in the backstage areas behind the Lost Continent, the themed area of the park that was partially taken over to make room for phase one of Wizarding World.


* Visitor questionnaires suggest Universal Studios is considering doubling the size of the themed land within the next year or two to make Wizarding World "twice as big with twice as much everything."


* Universal Studios' licensing contract with Warner Bros. requires the theme park to incorporate elements from the final Harry Potter films, the last of which will open in theaters in July.


Universal Studios Orlando saw a 36% spike in attendance after the opening of Wizarding World in June 2010, drawing an additional 1 million visitors in just three months. During the same period, merchandise sales more than doubled while food sales jumped nearly 60%. Analysts expect the attendance lift and corresponding sales uptick to continue for several years.


The wild popularity of Wizarding World, which has seen shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and hour-long lines just to enter shops, has led to speculation that Universal plans to scrap the rest of the Lost Continent attractions to make room for a phase two expansion of the Potter-verse. Among the most oft-repeated rumored plans:


* Change the "Eighth Voyage of Sinbad" stunt show into a Harry Potter-themed live show.


* Convert the Lost Continent market into Diagon Alley, complete with a Leaky Cauldron restaurant.


* Transform the "Poseidon’s Fury" special effects show into an indoor steel coaster or a dark ride themed to Gringotts Wizarding Bank.


For now though, expanding Wizarding World remains wishful thinking.


Source: LA Times

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Well, I can only speak for myself but I have never had to wait for any shops there. I've been on 4 seperate trips there ranging from aug-nov. I personally dont have any desire to watch the ollivanders wand picking experience so yeah, I haven't had to wait for any shop. Or for butterbeer for that matter too!

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Well, I can only speak for myself but I have never had to wait for any shops there.

Of course you haven't. Because your opinions and comments always falsely skew waaaaay positively for whatever it is you like.


You could have stood in a two hour line and you'd still report "I can only speak for myself but I have never had to wait for any shops there."



Edited by robbalvey
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Not to stir anything up anymore, but I also didn't have to wait to enter the shops when I visited in December. They were extremely crowded and uncomfortable, however, but the only one with a line was the wand one (sorry don't remember the names). Granted it also wasn't all THAT busy when I was there. It was more crowded than I had personally ever seen it, but it still wasn't as crowded as some of the reports I've heard. I think an expansion though to help spread the crowds is a good idea. I miss the original Lost Continent but if Harry Potter is making my favorite park thrive then I will just accept the changes and support future expansions. I do like Poseidon's Fury and the 8th Voyage of Sinbad, but it didn't seem like anyone else was interested when I was there. It may have just been a case of being the closest attractions to the new and shiny Potterland, I'm not sure, but they seemed to be waning in popularity. And this is a trend I've noticed on my once annual trips to IoA over the last 6 years. I love the Lost Continent market area, but if it is transformed into Diagon Alley and there is a Gringotts indoor coaster, I will be more than happy.

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Well' date=' I can only speak for myself but I have never had to wait for any shops there. [/quote']

Of course you haven't. Because your opinions and comments always falsely skew waaaaay positively for whatever it is you like. --Robb

Like all of us...yes US. I always say its my opinion I dont state anything as fact like some people...



You could have stood in a two hour line and you'd still report "I can only speak for myself but I have never had to wait for any shops there."

Why would I feel the need to lie? Thats kinda well...lame.

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I should probably not get into this, but seriously Robb, i know that we need a sense of humor to view Themeparkreview.com but do we need a sense of follness to read it?


I find it pretty odd how you are making (what you call jokes) with people sometimes.

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^You're 14 and don't know the history behind some of our posters. Please stay out of it.


As for the expansion, I don't think this comes as a surprise at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure this was all announced way back. They always said if it proved popular they would just takeover the rest of Lost Continent.


Doesn't really affect me at all, I'll just go take advantage of less lines at all the non unicorn/fairy harry potter crap!

Edited by SharkTums
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The indoor coaster, I agree, does sound like a great idea for the park. Very good to see that they are looking at how to manage the crowds. As a non-local, even reading about standing in hour plus lines just to shop shoulder to shoulder, and seeing the pics of the huge lines just to enter the area makes me not want to book a trip to IOA until the crowds are handled better.

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Oh i'm sorry, but it just didn't look like "humor" to me... nevermind.


And yeah because i'm 14 i'm a person that dosen't understand anything and are probably also completely dum.

And no thanks i don't wanna be banned for this site. Because i love this site and what you guys are doing, but sometimes it just gets over the limit.

One of the reasons i love this site is because it is not as "controlled as other sites" if that make any sense?

i like how we can make jokes with each other.


Please don't get me wrong.


- Kian

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^Again, last warning, let it go!!! I'm not saying you're dumb and 14, I'm saying you haven't been around the last six years on the site to understand the relationships we have with some of our posters.

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As for the expansion, I don't think this comes as a surprise at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure this was all announced way back. They always said if it proved popular they would just takeover the rest of Lost Continent.


At this point, with whats left of the Lost Continent, I think it'd be better to just finish it off I think. Though, I do hope they somehow keep Mythos.

Edited by robbalvey
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