Great Wolf Resorts will soon switch ownership.
According to the terms of the agreement, another private equity firm – New York-based Centerbridge Partners – will purchase the Madison, Wis.-based waterpark-resort chain for a reported $1.35 billion.
The deal, unanimously approved by the Great Wolf board of directors, is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2015.
This is the second time the company has gone up for auction, igniting a bidding war between investors. The first occurred in 2012 when it was acquired by Apollo Global Management, which is said to have made a substantial return on its sale to Centerbridge.
"This is an exciting next chapter for Great Wolf Resorts. During our partnership with Apollo we saw tremendous growth for our company," Great Wolf CEO Kimberly K. Schaefer said in a press release. "Now as we join Centerbridge's portfolio, we look forward to continuing to provide families with amazing experiences at each of our lodges."
The purchasing company said in the press release that it plans to continue growing the chain into new markets. Great Wolf Resorts currently has proposed locations for Colorado and Atlanta.
Great Wolf is a bit of an outlier in the waterpark industry. While most waterpark resorts are family-owned, Great Wolf is a corporate entity and by far the industry’s largest operator of indoor waterparks with 12 resorts in the U.S. and a 13th under construction in Garden Grove, Calif. That’s why investors vie for it.
“I think it does show that if you have a chain of properties in the waterpark sector doing well … then Wall Street is interested,” said David Sangree, president of Cleveland-based Hotel & Leisure Advisors. “But right now much of the waterpark isn’t that way.”
Neither Great Wolf Resorts nor Centerbridge Partners could be reached for comment.