Who Owns Busch Gardens


Updated: February 17, 2023

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Busch Gardens is a chain of amusement parks that was originally founded in Tampa, Florida, in 1959 by Anheuser-Busch, the well-known beer brewer. The park is named after the company’s signature brand of beer, Busch. Over the years, Busch Gardens has grown into a popular attraction with locations in Tampa, Florida, and Williamsburg, Virginia, drawing millions of visitors every year. However, with several changes in ownership over the years, the question of who owns Busch Gardens has become a complex one.

In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by InBev, a Belgian brewing company, and Busch Gardens became a part of the newly formed Anheuser-Busch InBev conglomerate. Since then, Busch Gardens has undergone several ownership changes, including being owned by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, and later being transferred to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Blackstone Group.

Throughout these changes, Busch Gardens has remained a beloved attraction for families and tourists, thanks to its thrilling rides, impressive animal exhibits, and immersive experiences. The park has continued to grow and expand, introducing new attractions and events to delight its visitors. However, with the recent changes in ownership, the future of Busch Gardens remains uncertain. Understanding the park’s history of ownership is critical in predicting its future direction and its ability to continue providing a high-quality experience for visitors.

What Is Busch Gardens?

Busch Gardens is a chain of theme parks that offer a combination of thrilling rides, animal exhibits, and live entertainment. The parks are located in Tampa, Florida, and Williamsburg, Virginia, and are known for their immersive experiences, which transport visitors to different parts of the world through themed areas, such as Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The parks offer a wide range of attractions suitable for visitors of all ages, including roller coasters, water rides, shows, and exhibits featuring various animal species from around the world. Busch Gardens also offers special events throughout the year, including seasonal celebrations, food and wine festivals, and concerts.

Busch Gardens has been in operation since 1959 when it was first opened in Tampa, Florida, by Anheuser-Busch, the beer brewer. Today, the parks are owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. Despite changes in ownership over the years, Busch Gardens has continued to provide a high-quality experience for visitors, with new attractions and experiences being introduced regularly.

The Early Years of Busch Gardens Ownership

Busch Gardens was originally opened in Tampa, Florida, in 1959 by Anheuser-Busch, the famous beer brewer. The park was designed to be a showcase for Anheuser-Busch’s signature brand of beer, Busch, and was named after the product. The original park featured a bird sanctuary, a beer garden, and a monorail that transported visitors around the grounds.

Over the years, Busch Gardens expanded to include more rides and attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and live entertainment shows. In the 1970s, the park began to focus more on animal exhibits, introducing safari tours and exhibits featuring a range of animals, including elephants, lions, and tigers.

Throughout the early years of Busch Gardens ownership, Anheuser-Busch remained committed to the park’s success, investing in new attractions and experiences to keep visitors coming back. The park quickly became a popular attraction for families and tourists, drawing millions of visitors each year.

Anheuser-Busch continued to own and operate Busch Gardens for several decades, with the park expanding to include a second location in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1975. However, in 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by InBev, a Belgian brewing company, and Busch Gardens became part of the newly formed Anheuser-Busch InBev conglomerate. This marked a significant change in ownership for Busch Gardens, with several ownership changes to follow in the years to come.

Busch Gardens Under Blackstone Group Ownership

Following the acquisition of Anheuser-Busch by InBev in 2008, Busch Gardens was acquired by Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, in a deal worth approximately $2.7 billion. Blackstone Group took over ownership of Busch Gardens along with several other theme parks, including SeaWorld, which it later spun off into a separate entity.

Under Blackstone Group ownership, Busch Gardens continued to operate as a premier amusement park, offering a range of thrilling rides, animal exhibits, and live entertainment. The park introduced several new attractions during this time, including several roller coasters, water rides, and shows, aimed at providing a diverse range of experiences for visitors.

However, Blackstone Group’s ownership of Busch Gardens was not without controversy. In 2013, the park faced criticism after the documentary “Blackfish” was released, which focused on the treatment of killer whales at SeaWorld parks. This led to a decline in attendance at both Busch Gardens and SeaWorld parks, and Blackstone Group began to explore the possibility of selling its theme park assets.

In 2017, Blackstone Group announced that it had sold its ownership stake in SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which included Busch Gardens, to a consortium of investors led by Zhonghong Zhuoye Group, a Chinese real estate developer. However, following financial difficulties, Zhonghong Zhuoye was forced to sell its stake in SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment to the current owner, Merlin Entertainments, a British theme park operator. Today, Busch Gardens continues to operate as one of the premier theme parks in the United States, under the ownership of Merlin Entertainments.

The Role of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in Busch Gardens Ownership

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment played a significant role in the ownership of Busch Gardens for several years. The company acquired Busch Entertainment Corporation, the subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch that operated Busch Gardens and several other theme parks, in 2009 for $2.3 billion. This move made SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment one of the largest theme park operators in the world, with 10 parks across the United States.

Under SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment ownership, Busch Gardens continued to operate as a premier amusement park, offering a range of thrilling rides, animal exhibits, and live entertainment. The company invested heavily in the park, introducing several new attractions during this time, including several roller coasters, water rides, and shows, aimed at providing a diverse range of experiences for visitors.

However, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment faced criticism and controversy during its ownership of Busch Gardens and its other parks. The release of the documentary “Blackfish” in 2013, which focused on the treatment of killer whales at SeaWorld parks, led to a decline in attendance and revenue for the company. This, along with other issues, led to several leadership changes at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and a shift in the company’s focus away from animal shows and exhibits.

Busch Gardens Ownership After the InBev and Anheuser-Busch Merger

After the InBev and Anheuser-Busch merger in 2008, Busch Gardens remained under the ownership of the newly formed Anheuser-Busch InBev company. However, the ownership of the park soon changed hands again in the following year.

In 2009, Anheuser-Busch InBev sold Busch Entertainment Corporation, the subsidiary that operated Busch Gardens and several other theme parks, to Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, for $2.3 billion. This sale included the two Busch Gardens parks, as well as SeaWorld, Sesame Place, Adventure Island, Water Country USA, and other properties.

Under Blackstone Group ownership, Busch Gardens continued to operate as a premier theme park, with a focus on providing guests with a unique blend of animal exhibits and thrilling rides. The company invested heavily in the park, introducing several new attractions and experiences, including the addition of several new roller coasters, water rides, and live shows.

However, Blackstone Group’s ownership of Busch Gardens was also relatively short-lived. In 2013, the company announced that it was planning to sell its ownership stake in the park, as well as its other theme park properties. This led to speculation about who the new owner of Busch Gardens would be, and whether the park would continue to operate as a premier attraction for families and tourists alike.

Anheuser-Busch’s Influence on Busch Gardens Ownership

Anheuser-Busch, the famous beer brewer, was the original owner of Busch Gardens, and its influence on the park’s ownership and development cannot be overstated. Anheuser-Busch opened the first Busch Gardens park in Tampa, Florida, in 1959, with the intention of creating a showcase for its signature brand of beer, Busch.

Under Anheuser-Busch’s ownership, Busch Gardens quickly became a popular attraction for families and tourists, drawing millions of visitors each year. The park expanded to include more rides and attractions, with a focus on animal exhibits in the 1970s, introducing safari tours and exhibits featuring a range of animals, including elephants, lions, and tigers. Anheuser-Busch remained committed to the park’s success, investing in new attractions and experiences to keep visitors coming back.

Anheuser-Busch’s ownership of Busch Gardens lasted for several decades, with the park expanding to include a second location in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1975. The company continued to invest in the parks, introducing several new attractions and expanding the animal exhibits, including the addition of a rhinoceros exhibit and a gorilla habitat.

Alternative of Busch Gardens

If you’re looking for theme park alternatives to Busch Gardens, there are several other parks across the United States that offer similar experiences. Some of these include:

  1. Cedar Point: Located in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is often referred to as the “roller coaster capital of the world.” The park features over 70 rides, including 18 roller coasters, and is known for its thrilling attractions and picturesque location on the shores of Lake Erie.

  2. Six Flags Magic Mountain: Located near Los Angeles, California, Six Flags Magic Mountain is home to 19 roller coasters, making it a popular destination for thrill seekers. The park also offers a variety of family-friendly attractions, including water rides and children’s areas.

  3. Universal Studios: With locations in Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California, Universal Studios is known for its immersive movie-themed attractions, including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Transformers. The parks also feature exciting rides and shows, making them a great alternative for families and movie lovers.

  4. Walt Disney World: Located in Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World is the most popular theme park in the world, with over 52 million visitors annually. The park features several themed areas, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, each with its own unique attractions and experiences.

  5. Dollywood: Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is a popular theme park owned by country music star Dolly Parton. The park features a variety of rides and attractions, including several roller coasters and a water park, as well as live shows and concerts.

These are just a few examples of the many theme park alternatives to Busch Gardens. Each park offers its own unique attractions and experiences, so it’s worth doing some research to find the one that’s right for you.

Busch Gardens’ Current Owner and Management Team

As of 2023, Busch Gardens is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a leading theme park and entertainment company. The company operates several theme parks across the United States, including SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Sesame Place, and of course, Busch Gardens.

The current management team at Busch Gardens is led by General Manager Kevin Lembke, who has been with the company since 2015. Lembke has a background in the theme park industry, having previously worked for several other parks and attractions, including SeaWorld San Antonio, Universal Studios, and Wet ‘n Wild.

Under Lembke’s leadership, Busch Gardens has continued to innovate and expand, introducing several new attractions and experiences for guests to enjoy. Recent additions to the park include the Tigris roller coaster, the Iron Gwazi wooden roller coaster, and the revamped Sesame Street Safari of Fun children’s area.

The Acquisition of Busch Gardens by InBev

In 2008, Anheuser-Busch, the long-time owner of Busch Gardens, was acquired by InBev, a Belgian brewing company, in a deal worth $52 billion. The acquisition marked the end of Anheuser-Busch’s 150 years as an independent, family-owned company.

As part of the acquisition, InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch’s ownership stake in Busch Gardens, as well as several other theme parks and entertainment properties. The acquisition had significant implications for the future of Busch Gardens, as InBev had no experience in the theme park industry and was primarily interested in Anheuser-Busch’s brewing operations.

Despite concerns about the future of Busch Gardens under InBev ownership, the park continued to operate as usual, with no significant changes in management or operations. In fact, the park continued to invest in new attractions and experiences, including the introduction of several new roller coasters and animal exhibits.

Recent Ownership Changes at Busch Gardens

In 2013, Blackstone Group announced that it was planning to sell its ownership stake in Busch Gardens, as well as its other theme park properties, to focus on other investment opportunities. In the following year, the company sold Busch Gardens and its other parks to a new owner, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which had previously operated SeaWorld and several other theme parks, acquired Busch Gardens and its sister parks for $2.5 billion. The acquisition was seen as a strategic move for SeaWorld, as it gave the company a stronger presence in the theme park industry and allowed it to diversify its offerings beyond marine life exhibits.

Under SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s ownership, Busch Gardens has continued to operate as a premier theme park, with a focus on providing guests with a unique blend of animal exhibits and thrilling rides. The company has invested heavily in the park, introducing several new attractions and experiences, including the addition of several new roller coasters, water rides, and live shows.

The Future of Busch Gardens Under Current Ownership

The future of Busch Gardens under current ownership is bright, as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has expressed a commitment to investing in the park and continuing to provide guests with a unique blend of animal exhibits and thrilling rides.

In recent years, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has made several significant investments in Busch Gardens, including the introduction of several new attractions and experiences. The company has also focused on enhancing the guest experience, with improvements to food and beverage offerings, retail shops, and guest services.

Looking ahead, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has several exciting plans in the works for Busch Gardens. In 2023, the company plans to open a new land called “Ice Breaker,” which will feature a new roller coaster and other winter-themed attractions. In addition, the company has announced plans to add new animal exhibits and expand the park’s water park, among other projects.

Overall, Busch Gardens appears to be in good hands under SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s ownership, with a strong management team and a commitment to providing guests with an unforgettable theme park experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Busch Gardens has a sister park in Williamsburg, Virginia, called Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Busch Gardens has undergone several ownership changes throughout its history, with ownership passing from Anheuser-Busch to InBev, and then to Blackstone Group, before being acquired by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in 2009.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has several exciting plans in the works for Busch Gardens, including the introduction of new attractions like “Ice Breaker,” a new roller coaster and winter-themed land set to open in 2023, as well as expansion of the water park and new animal exhibits.

Some of the most popular attractions at Busch Gardens include roller coasters like SheiKra and Montu, as well as animal exhibits like the Serengeti Plain and the Edge of Africa.

In addition to Busch Gardens, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment also owns several other theme parks across the United States, including SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Sesame Place.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Busch Gardens is currently owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a leading theme park and entertainment company that is committed to investing in the park and providing guests with an unforgettable experience. While Busch Gardens has undergone several ownership changes over the years, it has remained a popular destination for families and thrill seekers alike, with a unique blend of animal exhibits and thrilling rides.

Under SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s ownership, Busch Gardens has continued to innovate and expand, with several new attractions and experiences introduced in recent years, and exciting plans for the future. Whether you’re a roller coaster enthusiast or an animal lover, Busch Gardens is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a fun and memorable theme park experience.


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