Anheuser-Busch initially created the subsidiary to run the various Busch Gardens parks. The parks at Tampa, Florida andWilliamsburg, Virginia were located adjacent to breweries, and the parks included tours of the facilities and even free samples of the products made there. In 1989, Anheuser-Busch purchased the theme park unit of publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, which included the SeaWorld family of parks. The purchase also included two other parks in Central Florida: Cypress Gardens and Boardwalk and Baseball. Boardwalk and Baseball was promptly closed, while Cypress Gardens was later sold and transformed into Legoland Florida, which opened in October 2011. The parks were managed out of Anheuser-Busch's headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri until 2008, when the company relocated the division to Florida, where five of the company's ten parks were located.
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by Brazilian-Belgian brewer InBev. Based on its previous acquisitions, it was widely expected that InBev would later sell off non-core assets in order to pay down the debt created by its purchase of Anheuser-Busch; the theme-park division was considered one of the most likely assets to be sold. In early 2009, InBev began soliciting bids for those assets in advance of an anticipated sale. As part of the plans to shed the division, Busch Entertainment ended the free beer-sampling programs at those parks that had them. Similarly, Busch Entertainment broke from its parent company and terminated a benefit where employees of legal age received two free cases of Anheuser-Busch beer per month, a benefit that continued for the rest of the company. At the time, InBev was thought to be considering selling the parks to the highest bidder, or spinning off Busch Entertainment as an independent company. It was suggested at one point that NBC Universal was interested in purchasing Busch Entertainment, and folding it into the Universal Studios Theme Parks chain, but no official bid for the company surfaced. However, other asset sales, such as the sale ofTsingtao Brewery, and an issuance of $3 billion in new long-term debt in May 2009, raised over $11 billion since the start of 2009, temporarily reducing the need to sell Busch Entertainment. Other cited reasons for an apparent reluctance to sell off the company included still-volatile credit markets and receipt of initial bids that were lower than expected.;