Make us your home page

Busch Gardens executive will head Dubai theme parks

TAMPA — Donnie Mills, top executive at Busch Gardens Africa for a year, will lead the startup team at Worlds of Discovery Dubai, a multibillion-dollar theme park destined for a new global tourist metropolis.

The ruling family of Dubai is paying Busch Entertainment Corp. to build and manage three parks — Sea World, Aquatica and Busch Gardens — on a 300-acre man-made island shaped like Shamu that's being pumped from the bottom of the Persian Gulf.

A University of South Florida graduate who started his 34-year theme park career as a Tampa high school student working in the Busch Gardens parking lot, Mills will be executive vice president and managing director of all three Dubai parks. A Sea World and an Aquatica water park are scheduled to open there in 2012, with a Busch Gardens to follow in 2015.

Busch officials said Mills' replacement in Tampa will not be named for several months because Mills' overseas transition begins in late 2009.

Mills, 50, has held executive jobs in five of the 10 parks operated by the theme park unit of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. His elevation comes as Busch Entertainment is in a state of flux.

The parent company split the theme park headquarters from the beer company in St. Louis in the spring by moving the corporate offices to Orlando. In August, Brazilian-controlled, Belgian-based brewer InBev struck a deal to buy Anheuser-Busch for $52-billion. That deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The new owners will weigh offers to sell the theme parks, including Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Among the likely bidders for the parks: Merlin Entertainments, a British park operator with backing from U.S. hedge fund Blackstone Group; Parques Reunidos, a Spanish theme park operator owned by the British private equity fund Candover; or one of the investment groups controlled by the ruling family of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Busch Gardens executive will head Dubai theme parks 09/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  2. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  3. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  4. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]