PAG backs Universal Studios Japan

The Asia buyout fund has injected $250m of equity into the PE-backed theme park business.

PAG, the Asia-focused private equity firm led by ex-TPG executive Weijian Shan, has made a $250 million equity investment in Universal Studios Japan, according to a company statement. The firm made the investment from its first Asia buyout fund, PAG Asia I, but did not disclose the stake it took in the business.

PAG joins Goldman Sachs, MBK Partners and Owl Creek Asset Management in backing the existing management team led by chairman and chief executive of the theme park business, Glenn Gumpel.

Goldman, MBK and Owl Creek teamed up in a management buyout of Universal Studios Japan in 2009, in a deal worth around $1.4 billion, media reports said earlier.

The company will now continue with its growth plans, which include the development of a Harry Potter attraction, as well as expansion into other parts of Asia, according to the statement.

PAG was attracted by the company’s strong management team, dominant position in the market place and its expansion plans, according to the firm.

“Universal Studios Japan has been a great turnaround story over the last eight years, thanks to the efforts of the company's first rate management team and the investor group led by Goldman Sachs. PAG is proud to be joining this group and helping the company in its next phase of growth and development,” PAG chairman and chief executive Weijian Shan said in the statement.

He added that full credit for the transaction should be given to PAG's Japan team led by Tony Miller.

“Japan is attractive to private equity investors because it is rich, big and developed with clear rules to follow. But the challenge is to find good and sizable deals, particularly for foreign investors. You really need to have a local team which is fully plugged into the market as we do,” Shan told Private Equity International. 

Investing across Asia from its $2.5 billion Asia buyout fund, the firm has also recently strengthened its capabilities in China.

In November, the firm hired Suining Xiao, the former chairman of the Shenzhen Development Bank, to lead its private equity investments in China in a newly-created position, a source close to the matter confirmed to PEI earlier.