Rank Group sells Universal stake

ORLANDO -- Business is expected to continue as usual after London-based Rank Group announced it sold its 50% stake in Universal Studios Escape's two theme parks and the related CityWalk district here to New York-based Blackstone Capital Partners for $275 million in cash.

Rank's investments in Universal's three Florida hotels and in Universal Studios Japan are unchanged.

The sale is expected to have little impact on operations at the two theme parks -- Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure -- because co-owner Seagram Co. remains the managing partner, Universal officials said.

The deal gives privately owned Blackstone Capital 50% of the two Universal Studios Escape theme parks as well as CityWalk, the dining and entertainment district located between the two parks.

Blackstone Capital's parent, Blackstone Group, is a leveraged-buyout firm with a wide range of investments, including a 15% stake in Host Marriott.

The firm in 1991 joined with another investor to buy half of the Six Flags amusement park chain. Blackstone sold its stake to Time Warner in 1993.

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