Blackstone will sell its 21 percent interest in theme park operator SeaWorld Entertainment for about $449 million. The buyer is Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co., Ltd., a diversified holding company focused on strategic growth opportunities in the leisure, tourism, and culture industries
SeaWorld and Zhonghong Holding Co. have also agreed to advisory services and support agreements under which SeaWorld will advise Zhonghong Holding exclusively on the concept development and design of theme parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers to be developed and operated by Zhonghong Holding, including exclusive rights in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
"Zhonghong Group is making a significant, long-term investment in SeaWorld, reflecting their appreciation of the strength of our brand, our potential to grow the company and a shared commitment to protect wildlife and the environment," said Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. "Zhonghong Group has a strong track record of performance in the leisure and travel industries, and a solid management team with valuable experience in theme parks, family entertainment, and real estate development in Asia."
"We are delighted to engage with SeaWorld to bring this iconic, world-class family entertainment brand to China. SeaWorld's commitment to inspiring guests to protect animals and our oceans is increasingly relevant to people all around the world," said Yoshikazu Maruyama, President of Zhonghong Group's American operation. "Zhonghong Group hopes to contribute our experience and resources in global tourism and project development to enhance long-term value to all of SeaWorld's shareholders. We look forward to a highly collaborative relationship and to serve as a key partner to grow its business and further its mission."
Zhonghong Group has entered into a stockholders agreement with SeaWorld and, effective upon closing of the transaction, SeaWorld will increase the size of its Board to 11 and Zhonghong Group executives Yoshikazu Maruyama, President of Zhonghong Group's American operation, and Yongli Wang, Chief Strategy Officer of Zhonghong Group, will join the SeaWorld Board providing long-term shareholder perspectives and substantive expertise in global themed entertainment and business development in China.
The agreement also contains certain restrictions on Zhonghong Group's ability to sell its interest in SeaWorld for a period of two years, limitations on its ability to acquire more than 24.9% of SeaWorld's outstanding shares without the approval of the independent directors of SeaWorld's Board and other customary restrictions including voting and standstill to protect SeaWorld and all of its stockholders.
Upon receipt of regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017. Following the closing contemplated by the agreements, Blackstone and its affiliates will no longer hold any interests in SeaWorld or have seats on SeaWorld's Board.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sea Rescue. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company's theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows, and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.
Zhonghong Group was founded in 1993, and is a diversified holding company headquartered in Beijing, China, with investments in real estate, leisure, culture, and tourism industries. Most recently, the Zhonghong Group acquired Abercrombie & Kent, Group of Companies, S.A., a major international luxury and adventure tour operator. Zhonghong Group has over 13,500 employees globally with varied backgrounds ranging from tourism, finance, real estate, hospitality, leisure, and recreation.