A new report claims that Comcast has agreed to buy The Blackstone Group's 50 percent stake in Universal Orlando, giving it complete ownership of the resort.
TheWrap.com claims that Comcast will pay between $1 billion and $1.5 billion to complete the deal, which will give it control of the Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks. The report cites "an individual with knowledge of the deal", and has yet to be confirmed by either Comcast or Blackstone.
In March, Blackstone triggered a possible ownership change by offering to sell its stake to Comcast-owned NBC Universal. The company has until June 12, 2011 to accept the offer, or it will have to facilitate a full sale of the entire resort to a third-party.
The performance of the Universal Orlando Resort has improved significantly during the last year following the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. The new land was behind a 20 percent attendance boost during 2010, which led to record full-year profits of $267 million.
A full takeover by NBC Universal would be the least complex outcome of Blackstone's decision to sell. The SEC filing regarding Blackstone's offer to sell reveals that Warner Bros. could opt to terminate the license to use the Harry Potter characters if any new owners fails to meet "certain financial and reputation tests", or if quality levels drop at Islands of Adventure.
Blackstone currently has a significant stake in Florida's theme park industry. The company owns SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment (which operates SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa, among other parks), having taken it over in 2009. It also co-owns Merlin Entertainments Group, which is currently constructing Legoland Florida.