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Busch Entertainment Sale To Blackstone To Close Dec. 1

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The multibillion-dollar sale of Orlando-based Busch Entertainment Corp. should be finalized in just two weeks, significantly sooner than initially expected.

In a letter to employees, BEC President Jim Atchison said the sale is scheduled to close Dec. 1. The company’s current owner, beer brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, had previously said the sale would be completed sometime before the end of the first half of 2010.

The sale was announced Oct. 7.

Blackstone will pay $2.3 billion cash for Busch, plus give AB InBev up to $400 million in future returns.  BEC is the No. 2 theme-park operator in the United States, with a chain of 10 theme parks that draws roughly 24 million visitors a year. The company’s parks include SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Atchison’s letter, which was sent Friday afternoon, was first reported by Screamscape.com, a Web site covering the amusement industry.

To finance the sale, BEC will take on about $1.5 billion in debt. That includes a $1.1 billion loan backed by virtually all of its assets and a $400 million unsecured loan, both of which will come due in about seven years.

Blackstone will contribute $975 million in cash.

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Monday, November 20, 12:11 am

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