Live Deal: Blackstone Seeks Thrills in Universal Studios Stake –

In a deal struck early this month, Blackstone Capital Partners III agreed to purchase The Rank Group plc’s stake in Universal Studios Escape for $275 million cash.

Included in the deal are Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, two Orlando-based theme parks, as well as Universal Studios CityWalk, an entertainment complex in Orlando. The parks recently underwent a $1 billion expansion, which Howard Lipson, senior managing director at Blackstone, believes will “drive meaningful long-term growth in its attendance, revenues, and profits,” according to a statement.

Should the deal close, Blackstone will acquire a 50% stake in the company, although Seagram Co., which holds the other 50%, will continue to be the managing partner of the operation. U.K.-based Rank Group will retain its stake in three hotels adjacent to the attractions and its investment in Universal Studios Japan.

For quite a while, Blackstone has indicated an interest in investments in amusement parks. The Blackstone Group LP, in 1991, partnered with Wertheim Schroder & Co. to acquire one half of the Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which operates seven Six Flags amusement parks. Blackstone and Wertheim Schroder, in 1992, sold the 50% stake to co-owner Time Warner Entertainment LP for $50 million and assumed debt.

The Blackstone Group, a New York-based private equity firm, manages Blackstone Capital Partners III, which is valued at approximately $4 billion and closed in 1997.

Officials at Blackstone did not return calls by press time.