Comcast has confirmed that it is to take full control of the Universal Orlando Resort, buying The Blackstone Group's 50 percent stake for $1.025 billion.
The deal had been widely expected after Blackstone triggered a possible ownership change by offering to sell its stake to Comcast-owned NBC Universal. The company had until June 12, 2011 to accept the offer, or it would have had to facilitate a full sale of the entire resort to a third-party.
Blackstone will make a significant profit on the deal, having paid $275 million plus $75 million in performance bonuses for its stake in 2000. It brings the Universal Orlando Resort under the control of Universal Parks & Resorts, which also owns Universal Studios Hollywood and operates Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.
In a written statement, NBC Universal's CEO Steve Burke said of the deal: "The acquisition consolidates our ownership and confirms our long-term commitment to Universal Orlando and the theme park business. Universal Orlando is a consistent and significant driver of operating and free cash flow and is performing extremely well. It has a superb management team and exciting growth opportunities. This purchase of the Blackstone interest is attractively valued and represents strong financial returns for NBC Universal."
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.
Blackstone still 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.