The bankrupt amusement park found a buyer this winter, which got it for a song: $25 million. Maybe that price was too good to be true. Now that the sale has mostly gone through and the attraction looked like it stood a chance of resuscitation, the park's former CEO, Steven Goodwin, has filed papers demanding a $500,000 royalty fee every year, plus 1.5% of revenues, for the use of the Hard Rock name. He says the Hard Rock name and design is his intellectual property.
The new owners bought a dud of a theme park, but they aren't buying this. They said their contract gave them the place "free and clear of encumbrances." Some observers are saying Goodwin created his royalty-demanding company in secret just so he could pull this. The legal system must act swiftly if the park is going to staff up and be ready for its Memorial Day re-opening.
More than 750 people applied for jobs there on a single day in March.
Several of the licenses for existing attractions are already in jeopardy. The park contains some pretty unusual, almost risible, rock and roll tie-ins, such as a roller coaster with Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" piped into the seats, Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" blasted at another, and an indoor ride themed to the Moody Blues' trippy "Nights in White Satin." Pending re-negotiation, those aren't described on the Hard Rock Park website.
I know everyone needs money right now, but Goodwin's timing is diabolical. This isn't the moment to be putting any more pressure on America's amusement parks. They're already faltering, with Six Flags on unsteadier footing than its creepy old mascot, and Disney laying off hundreds as we speak. Hard Rock Park was a flop that lasted one season, so the idea that it could be a cash cow this year, in its second and possibly last chance, is pretty ridiculous. The rebirth of the park could potentially redeem the Hard Rock name after last year's disastrous failure. If these demands scupper the resuscitation, the company will live in theme park infamy as a catastrophic Chapter 11 loser.
How's that for intellectual property, Goodwin? Perhaps the reputation of the Hard Rock name is worth that $500,000.