Blackstone agreed to sell its majority stake in SeaWorld for a 33% premium from its most recent close early Friday, sending shares of the beleaguered entertainment company up as much as 9% in trading.
Zhonghong Group, a Chinese leisure, real estate, and travel company, is expected to pay $448.5 million for the 21% stake in SeaWorld based on the SEC filings.
It may seem like a discount compared to the $2.3 billion Blackstone paid for SeaWorld back in 2009, but the financial giant has been gradually selling off shares of the company since SeaWorld shares first started sinking in 2013 — not long after the Blackfish documentary sparked controversy over its killer whale program. Over the course of several different transactions, Blackstone went from being a 65% owner to a 19% owner.
“Zhonghong Group has a strong track record of performance in the leisure and travel industries, and a solid management team with valuable experience in theme parks, family entertainment, and real estate development in Asia,” Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld entertainment, said in a statement.
The acquisition of SeaWorld is just one of many deals struck between the West’s entertainment industry and Chinese companies, as the country uses its economic power to expand its soft power arsenal. For instance, Chinese giant Dalian Wanda Group bought AMC Entertainment in 2012, while Legendary Entertainment Group was purchased for $3.5 billion in 2016.