By Seth Kubersky
Recently, the Walt Disney Company completed plans to purchase 100% ownership of the Disneyland Paris resort in France. If news that the Walt Disney Company was not always the sole owner of Disneyland Paris comes as a surprise, you may be interested to know Disney doesn’t completely (or even mostly) own many of the international attractions that bear its name. Here’s is a brief primer on who owns the Disney parks around the world:
Disneyland Resort (California)
In order to fund construction of the original Disneyland Park, the Walt Disney Company gave ownership stakes to several investors, retaining just over one-third ownership for itself. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, the parent company of ABC Television (which is today owned by Disney), received both a stake equal to the Walt Disney Company’s, as well as the original Disneyland television series, in exchange for bank loan guarantees and half a million dollars cash. Western Printing and Lithography Co. purchased a 13.8% share for $200,000, while Walt Disney personally purchased 16.55% with $250,000 of his own money, in addition to retaining ownership of the Disneyland Railroad. Furthermore, the Disneyland Hotel was originally built and owned by Jack Wrather, with Disney only licensing the name. By 1960 the Walt Disney Company bought out their theme park partners, and in 1982 the Disney family sold their rights back to the company; however, Disney didn’t acquire ownership of the Disneyland Hotel until 1988. Today, Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort is 100% owned by the Walt Disney Company.
Walt Disney World (Florida)
The Walt Disney Company not only owns all of the Walt Disney World Resort, but has de facto governmental control over the vast property through the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special entity created by the Florida legislature to give Disney authority over the destination’s planning and development. However, the first two Walt Disney World Resort on-site hotels – the Contemporary and Polynesian Village – were originally built and owned by U.S. Steel; Roy Disney negotiated to buy out their interest shortly before his death in 1971. Since then, Disney has sold off various parcels of property for private development, including the Town of Celebration and the Flamingo Crossings area.
Tokyo Disney Resort (Japan)
100% Oriental Land Company
Tokyo Disneyland was the first overseas Disney theme park resort, and it’s the only one that Disney has no ownership stake in. The Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea parks are owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, which is in turn owned by Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd., Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd., and several other Japanese corporations. The resort pays Disney a licensing fee for its names and characters, and all of the attractions are designed by Disney’s Imagineers. But while the Disney company has employees on site to help maintain standards, it does not directly control or run the Tokyo parks.
Disneyland Paris (France)
(100% Disney as of June 2017)
As mentioned in the introduction, Disneyland Paris is operated by Euro Disney S.C.A., which was previously only 76.7% the property of the Walt Disney Company. In June 2017, Disney completed the process of purchasing shares formerly held by Kingdom Holding Company, and announced that it had secured enough stock to implement a mandatory buy-out of the remainder, securing 100% ownership of Disneyland Paris for the first time as of June 19.
Hong Kong Disneyland (Hong Kong/China)
53% Hong Kong Government
Disney’s first Chinese resort is owned by a joint venture company, Hongkong International Theme Parks Limited, whose shares are split between the Hong Kong Government and The Walt Disney Company. When the park opened in 2005, the Hong Kong Government held a 57% ownership stake, while The Walt Disney Company owned 43%, but as of the end of fiscal 2015, the Hong Kong Government holds 53% of shares in the company while The Walt Disney Company holds 47%. Though Disney is a minority owner of the park, it does directly oversee operations.
Shanghai Disneyland (China)
57% Chinese Government
Much like its elder Chinese cousin, Disney’s newest resort in Shanghai is also a joint venture between the Walt Disney Company and the Chinese government, in the form of a conglomerate called Shanghai Shendi Group. At present, Disney owns 43% of the Shanghai resort, with the government-controlled corporations retaining 57%. The Shanghai park is operated by a management company that is 70% owned by Disney, which earns management fees and royalties.
If all this international finance exhausts you, recharge with a virtual vacation via these POV ride-throughs of some of our favorite Disney attractions from around the world: