UK leisure group Rank Group Plc has reached an initial agreement to sell its 50% stake in Florida's Universal Studios Escape to US private equity firm Blackstone Capital for $275 million, Rank said on Friday.

Under the pact, Rank will also receive up to $75 million if Blackstone achieves a target level of return on its investment. Rank, which put its holding in the theme park up for sale as part its disposal of non-core assets, aims for the deal to be finalised in three months. The park's other shareholder, Canada's Seagram Co, has approved the sale.

"We are pleased to have reached this initial agreement with Blackstone, secured with the cooperation of our partners," said Mike Smith, Rank's chief executive. "However, there are a number of conditions yet to be met which means that we still need to temper our expectations at this stage."

Blackstone, head by chairman Peter Peterson and chief executive Stephen Schwartz, is aggressive in the leveraged buyout arena. Last year it bought London hotel the Savoy.

Rank recorded a net loss after interest of $3m in the park in 1999. Proceeds from the sale will be used to help pay off Rank's debt, which had come down from $16.8 billion to $1.2 billion in February.