May 4, 2015 by wilsonneelynyc
In 2009, with the credit markets still reeling following the economic collapse that occurred in the previous year, The American Lawyer (Am Law) Daily discussed a deal that typified the pre-recession marketplace: A $2.7 billion leveraged buyout of Busch Entertainment. The operator of popular theme parks like Busch Gardens and SeaWorld, Busch Entertainment was purchased by the Blackstone Group from AB InBev. Wilson Neely, the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner who advised Blackstone on the buyout, was named Dealmaker of the Week by Am Law Daily for his work on the sale. The honor was bestowed on him in part for helping to “secure financing and broker the deal that is . . . the biggest leveraged buyout since mid-2007.”
The sale of Busch Entertainment was undertaken by AB InBev to assist with paying down debt that the company took on in order to purchase Anheuser-Busch. Meanwhile, Blackstone was interested in further investing in the amusement industry, adding SeaWorld and other properties to its existing portfolio, which includes Madame Tussaud’s and Legoland. Wilson Neely led the team that oversaw the trickiest part of the deal: securing financing in a difficult market. The success of the buyout led him to tell Am Law, “The frozen tundra [of the market] is thawing,” and the following years proved his assessment to be right. In 2014, global mergers and acquisitions have reached $3.1 trillion, and experts have high expectations for next year, as well.