New York City-based Blackstone Real Estate continues to grow its “family-fun” portfolio with the recent announcement to acquire 65 percent controlling interest in Great Wolf Resorts.
Founded in 1997, Great Wolf Resorts is the largest operator of indoor water parks in North America, with about 6,000 employees and 18 resorts, including the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine.
Blackstone affiliate Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX is taking a 65 percent controlling stake in the business through a $2.9 billion joint venture alongside Centerbridge Partners, Great Wolf’s most recent private equity owner.
The investment firm helped take Merline Entertainment, the owner of Legoland, private this year, following a seven-year lucrative investment in SeaWorld Entertainment.
“We have been very impressed by the evolution and growth of the company under Centerbridge’s ownership,” says Blackstone Real Estate’s Tyler Henritze. “With the leadership of its talented management team, Great Wolf has enriched the guest experience and opened seven new lodges since 2015. We look forward to investing in these properties to further deliver for guests and grow the company.”
Blackstone is the third private equity firm in just seven years to acquire the Chicago-based chain of indoor water parks and lodging.
In one of the most heated lender buyouts in recent history, Apollo took the company private in 2012 for more than $700 million, including debt. Under Apollo’s ownership, Great Wolf added a resort in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and began building another in Southern California.
New York City-based Centerbridge purchased Great Wolf March 2015 for $1.35 billion, including debt.
Centerbrige opened five more Great Wolf resorts, including locations in Georgia and Illinois last year–as well as investing in room renovations.
A weekend stay at the Grapevine resort, including a trip to the water park, would cost about $441 a night, according to the booking site.
Goldman Sachs and Citigroup Global Markets are financial advisors to Great Wolf, and Simpson Thacher & Barlett is legal counsel to Great Wolf. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is Blackstone’s legal counsel.