Casino Operator Genting Malaysia Sues Fox, Disney over Failed Theme Park

Genting Malaysia seeks $1 billion in damages from Fox and Disney for the failed Fox World theme park

Malaysian casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd. is suing Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox for backing out of a deal to sponsor a Fox-branded theme park at the gaming and hospitality company’s integrated resort located just outside Kuala Lumpur.

Genting filed Monday a 29-page legal complaint in Los Angeles federal court. The company seeks over $1 billion in damages from Disney and Fox for abandoning a contract from 2013 that would have seen Fox license intellectual property for what would have been the world’s first Fox-branded theme park.

Genting, which as stated in its Monday lawsuit operates Malaysia’s only legal casino, planned to add the Fox World theme park to the entertainment offering at its Resorts World Genting integrated resort. The property is located an hour’s drive from the Malaysian capital, at 6,000 feet above sea level, and includes seven hotels, scores of dining facilities, bars, and clubs, shopping malls, and a number of entertainment options. The property annually welcomes 23 million visitors and Genting hoped that the theme park, which was slated to open next year, would boost that figure to 30 million visitors a year by 2020.

News about the lawsuit emerge as Disney is entering the final stages of the recently approved $71.3 million acquisition of Fox entertainment assets.

Seller’s Remorse

Genting said in its lawsuit that “seller’s remorse” has prompted Fox to abandon the theme park deal. The Malaysian casino company also suggested that Disney’s purchase of Fox assets played a key role in the latter’s decision to pull out of the Fox-branded theme park project.

The legal complaint further reads that Genting’s problems preventing it to complete the project began years ago as Fox tried to renegotiate the terms of their contract and sought a share of the gate revenue, among other things. The Malaysian casino company pointed out that once Disney began calling the shots, the objective was no longer to renegotiate the deal but to terminate it as any association with a gambling company did not fit the “family-friendly” brand strategy of the California-headquartered entertainment conglomerate.

Genting said that it has already invested more than $750 million in Fox World and that Fox is liable “for what will exceed a billion dollars in damages attributable to the bad-faith behavior of both Fox and Disney.”

Genting Malaysia’s shares plunged 20% on news about the lawsuit, hitting an eight-year low to MYR2.93 at one point today. With 276.3 million shares traded, the company was the most active stock on Bursa Malaysia. Genting Malaysia’s stock took a massive hit earlier this month when the government of Malaysia announced that it would increase the annual license fee and the annual gross income tax the company is required to pay for the operation of its casino. As from January 1, 2019, Genting will be taxed at 35% on revenue and will have to pay a MYR150-million license fee, up from MYR120 million.

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