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TheStreet Open House

Blackstone, Vampire Squid Sucking Life From SeaWorld: Street Whispers

Stock quotes in this article: BX, GS, KKR, CG, FIG

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Blackstone Group (BX) and Goldman Sachs (GS)' proposed initial public offering of SeaWorld stinks like a rotting whale carcass, but that isn't necessarily news.

Still, the deal deserves our attention if only for the likely futile hope that such scrutiny will counter the secret strategy of Wall Street takeover sharks: bore the world to death while quietly raking in all the $400 stone crabs on the planet.

While Blackstone is apparently the main owner of SeaWorld, someone with a sense of humor at Goldman Sachs decided the infamous vampire squid also ought to have a stake. The size of the stake isn't specified. A Goldman spokeswoman declined to comment.

Blackstone bought SeaWorld from Anheuser-Busch (BUD) in 2009. Since then, it has increased the company's debt load to pay itself two dividends worth a total of $610 million. Blackstone also purchased more than $100 million in SeaWorld debt. Some of the proceeds of the IPO will be used to pay Blackstone an unspecified fee.

Blackstone will retain control over SeaWorld after the IPO, which is a good thing for Blackstone, since it will allow the buyout firm to continue receiving all sorts of kickbacks from the company.

Take Equity Healthcare, for example, a sort of middleman among middlemen affiliated with Blackstone. SeaWorld's prospectus states that Equity Healthcare, which it contracted at the start of the year, "provides to us certain negotiating, monitoring and other services in connection with our health benefit plans. Because of the combined purchasing power of its client participants, Equity Healthcare is able to negotiate pricing terms for providers that are believed to be more favorable than the companies could obtain for themselves on an individual basis."

That doesn't sound too different from the pitch originally made by health insurers: that they help companies keep medical costs down by exerting leverage over doctors. But now it seems Blackstone's companies need someone to police the police. Meanwhile, it charges SeaWorld $2.50 per employee per month for the 8,400 employees who participate in the plan, which will rise to $2.60 in 2013 and $2.70 in 2014.

Another Blackstone affiliate called Core Trust Purchasing Group (CPG) "secures from vendors pricing terms for goods and services that are believed to be more favorable than participants in the group purchasing organization could obtain for themselves on an individual basis," according to the prospectus.

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