Explaining Southern California's economy

Shamu goes public: Could SeaWorld's IPO retire a whale of debt?

Baby Killer Whale Born At SeaWorld San Diego

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A mother and baby orcas, also called killer whales, swim at Sea World in San Diego. The company just filed for a $100 million IPO, much of which may go to put a dent in $1.7 billion of debt.

Last week, SeaWorld and its iconic orcas filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. It's fair to call this the "Shamu IPO," even though the original Shamu, who performed at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, died in 1971. SeaWorld has kept the moniker around as a sort of branded stage name for orcas.

SeaWorld also operates marine-based theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas; the parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, runs eight other venues in the U.S. And that parent company is owned by Blackstone, a huge private equity firm that bought SeaWord from Anheuser-Busch in 2009.

(Blackstone, with another aspect of its business, also managed the sale of the Dodgers last year and is currently involved with the sale of sports and entertainment colossus AEG.)

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Private-equity champion says attacks on Romney have 'tinge of McCarthyism'

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Rom

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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney greets supporters after addressing a primary night victory rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, January 10, 2012.

At DealBook, Andrew Ross Sorkin talks to Paul Levy of JLL Partners and a self-confessed small-fry among the big fish of the private-equity world. As you probably know, in recent weeks, private-equity — the practice of buying struggling companies, usually with debt, taking them private, turning them around, and re-selling them — has taken a drubbing, based on the notion that successful PE guys, like GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are Gordon Gekko-esque in their commitment to greed.

Levy thinks this is terrible. How terrible? It's nearing red-scare levels:

...Mr. Levy has been dismayed that the industry’s heavyweights have not sought to publicly defend their industry in recent days. Private equity came under attack when Mitt Romney’s political rivals put his career at Bain Capital in the spotlight as part of the Republican primary.

“There’s a tinge of McCarthyism here,” Mr. Levy said in an interview. “I think it’s a pretty honorable industry, and I don’t know why people aren’t stepping up and defending the careers that define their lives. That’s a sad thing. What do they fear it will cost them?”

Mr. Levy, who voted for President Obama in 2008, is right. Virtually none of the big names in private equity have spoken up to defend the industry. Over the past several weeks, anytime my colleagues or I have sought comment about attacks on the industry, private equity’s kingpins have declined. (The industry’s lobbying group, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, has been working behind the scenes to shore up support and plans a more public campaign in the coming weeks, but with none of the leading private equity executives playing a significant role.)

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U.S. Treasury says Wall Street reform won't hurt small banks

Mercer 19056

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File: A Bank of America branch is seen in Times Square October 19, 2010 in New York City.

Financial regulation of Wall Street matters in Washington. The U.S. Treasury thinks so and has begun to blog about why. Yes, blog. In its most recent post, the Treasury debunks the idea that bank reform is somehow bad for small banks:

Myth #1: Wall Street Reform Hurts Small Banks

Fact:  

This claim is particularly dubious given strong support for enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act by the Independent Community Bankers of America.  Wall Street Reform helps level the playing field between large banks and small ones, helping to eliminate distortions that previously favored the biggest banks that held the most risk.

The operative concept here is risk. It isn't small banks that pose systemic risk to the banking system — it's the too-big-to-fail banks that ignored prudent risk models in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Robert G. Wilmers — a banking executive who runs M&T Bank, one of the few large banks that more or less sailed throught the financial crisis — provides a very succinct take on the problem at Bloomberg:

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