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Blackstone to Buy 65% of Park Operator Great Wolf Resorts

The private equity firm is taking a controlling stake in the company that operates 18 resorts in the U.S. and Canada.

(Bloomberg)—Blackstone Group Inc. agreed to buy a 65% controlling interest in waterpark operator Great Wolf Resorts Inc. from Centerbridge Partners and the two firms will form a $2.9 billion joint-venture to own the company.

Great Wolf operates 18 family-oriented resorts in the U.S. and Canada, according to a statement announcing the deal. The properties include full-service hotels, indoor waterparks, and recreational activities like bowling alleys and ropes courses.

Great Wolf opened its first property in Wisconsin in 1997, and spent its early years expanding in cold-weather states across the Midwest. The combination of indoor waterparks and hotel rooms proved popular with consumers, spurring competition and attracting interest from private equity.

Centerbridge bought Great Wolf in 2015 from Apollo Global Management Inc., when the Chicago-based company operated 11 resorts, called “lodges” in the company’s parlance. Since then, it has added seven new properties, with another one scheduled to open in Manteca, California next year.

Blackstone is familiar with entertainment businesses, which are benefiting from higher consumer spending on travel and leisure. It nearly tripled its money on a seven-year investment in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. In June, Blackstone agreed to help buy the owner of Legoland theme parks for about $6.1 billion.

Bloomberg reported in September that Blackstone was nearing a deal for Great Wolf that would value the company at $2.9 billion or more.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Clark in New York at [email protected].

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Urban at [email protected]

Prashant Gopal

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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