According to sources cited by Reuters, in addition to pursuing an IPO, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is in early talks with multiple potential, independent buyers. Among them, both Six Flags and Apollo Global Management (of Great Wolf Lodge fame) are specifically named. While it’s not unusual for companies to see if they can fetch a higher price from a private sale, it is interesting to see these two companies at the table.
Apollo Global Management has been looking to make a splash in the theme park business for some time now. Most recently, Apollo bought out the Great Wolf Lodge chain of resort hotels and even attempted (unsuccessfully) to purchase Cedar Fair in 2009. While not lacking in the ability to pay for a share of the SeaWorld parks, it’s unknown if they would want to make long term investments in the company that would be required to maintain its success.
Six Flags has long been rumored to be looking into building a park in the Williamsburg area, as well as trying to enter the Florida theme park market. However, without having the financial ability to buy a significant share, Six Flags would have to arrange a plan to merge with SeaWorld while simultaneously making the company public. This would allow SeaWorld to expand its presence, both nationally and internationally, with minimal overlap or cost.
Such a merger would not be without flaws, though. Increased debt load of both companies, major changes to park management structures, and the sheer size that said company would be (2nd largest theme park company by attendance) would all be major stumbling blocks that this plan would have to overcome. While these things can be dealt with (such as selling smaller and/or underperforming parks), it’s doubtful that either Six Flags or SeaWorld, both of which have done similar things in the past, would want to go through it again.
These talks are just part of the arduous process of a company going public; either something could come of it, or they could go forward with the IPO (which remains the most likely of the two). Regardless, if one thing’s for sure, it’s that the next few months will be very interesting.
Which do you think would be the better option: a private sale or going public? Let us know in the comments below or, better yet, join the discussion about the IPO on the ParkFans Forum, here.