Harcourt Will Sell Off Land Holdings, Theme Parks to Cut Its Debt

From United Press International

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., the textbook publisher that fended off a hostile takeover bid in 1987 but tripled its debt in the process, said today that it will sell its theme parks and land holdings.

The company said the sale of six theme parks, including Sea World in San Diego, and others in Florida, Texas and Ohio, will allow it to substantially reduce its debt and boost investment in its publishing and insurance businesses.

Harcourt also owns two other parks in central Florida--Cypress Gardens, and Boardwalk and Baseball. The company's real estate holdings include land surrounding its three Florida parks and Sea World in Texas, as well as land next to Orlando International Airport.

An About-Face

The proposed sale represents an about-face for the company. Harcourt, which sold about $370 million in assets in the fourth quarter of 1987, including a magazine publishing business, previously said it planned no other asset sales.

One analyst expressed surprise at the announcement for that reason.

"I always thought the theme parks were not strongly connected to the media business. However, they adamantly denied that they had any intention of selling them," said J. Kendrick Noble Jr. of PaineWebber Inc. in New York.

Noble noted that the parks did not perform as well as expected in 1988, and he said that may have influenced the company's decision.

The parks accounted for $338 million of Harcourt's $1.8 billion in revenues in 1988, and showed an operating profit of $61.9 million.

Cut Expenses

However, Harcourt dramatically cut expenses at the parks last year. In August, the company trimmed 700 jobs at its six parks.

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