Neither of these companies exist anymore. Harcourt was sold in 2007. Anheuser-Busch was sold in 2008. If you read the articles here on Friends of the Whale in the category “What Happened to SeaWorld of Ohio” you will notice this is sort of a theme. Since SeaWorld of Ohio opened in 1971, many companies have been bought and sold and these actions determined the future and end of SeaWorld of Ohio.
So, let me ask you a question. How much money is a billion dollars? Seems like a lot, right.
In 1989, the New York Times reported that Harcourt Brace Jovanovich was in talks to sell the SeaWorld theme parks for $1.3 billion dollars. These were the same three parks they had purchased in 1976 for $46 million (a fourth park had since been added in San Antonio, Texas). That’s a nice return on their investment.
However, the sale was only because HBJ was trying to survive. The publisher had just fought off a takeover attempt by British publishing company Robert Maxwell. This left Harcourt Brace Jovanovich a crushing $2.6 billion in debt. The company decided to sell an asset to reduce its debt burden.
Like I said above, there’s a theme here that emerges as we move forward through SeaWorld’s history. In the 1980s, the news was full of stories about companies in hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and mergers. In 1987, the hit movie Wall Street starred Michael Douglas as a villian investor, greedily buying up good companies to sell at a quick profit. This wasn’t just fiction. The money and stakes involved in financing businesses grew and mergers and sales increased.
SeaWorld of Ohio would get a new owner as a result.