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NBCUniversal to buy Blackstone's stake in Orlando theme parks for $1 billion

June 6, 2011 |  3:48 pm

Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal has agreed to pay slightly more than $1 billion to acquire full control of the Universal Orlando theme parks.

Private equity firm Blackstone Group has held a 50% stake in the Florida parks for more than a decade. The assets include Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk. NBCUniversal already owns 100% of the Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

The agreement puts the value of the Florida complex at $3.165 billion, the company said in a statement. The sale is expected to close by July 1.

"The acquisition consolidates our ownership and confirms our long-term commitment to Universal Orlando and the theme park business," NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a statement. "Universal Orlando is a consistent and significant driver of operating and free cash flow and is performing extremely well."

NBCUniversal, which was acquired by Comcast five months ago, faced a June 12 deadline to to buy out Blackstone's stake or risk having it put into play. The Orlando theme parks have been riding high on the success of a new Harry Potter attraction.

"We are proud of the extraordinary growth and success that Universal Orlando experienced during our 11 years of ownership," Michael Chae, Blackstone's senior managing director, said in the statement. “Throughout this period we have been committed to investing for long-term growth in partnership with the company's management and NBCUniversal, and we are gratified with the results of this strategy.”

NBCUniversal said the more than $1-billion purchase will be funded "with cash on hand at NBCUniversal, borrowings under NBCUniversal’s existing revolving credit facility and a one-year $400-million note to NBCUniversal from an affiliate of Comcast."

The Florida park also has a 30-acre Universal CityWalk, with restaurants, shopping and nighttime entertainment. Three hotels -- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort -- sit on the site.

--  Meg James


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Photo: Guests at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Credit: Scott Audette / Reuters