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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Amusement park rivals to combine, make new headquarters in Charlotte

Cedar Fair, which owns Carowinds, will combine with Six Flags Entertainment in what the two companies are calling a merger of equals.

The combined company will be headquartered in Charlotte. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2024, according to the announcement Thursday.

The combined company will operate a portfolio of 27 amusement parks, 15 water parks and nine resort properties across 17 states in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The publicly traded company will go by the name Six Flags and trade under the NYSE ticker symbol FUN, which Cedar Fair uses now. Individual park names will not change, so Carowinds will still be known as Carowinds.

The combined company is valued at $8 billion, based on debt and equity values as of Oct. 31, according to the companies. Cedar Fair had about 4,400 full-time employees and 48,800 part-time and seasonal workers in 2022, while Six Flags had 1,450 full-time and 40,000 seasonal workers last year, according to annual reports from both companies.

Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard Zimmerman, who already lives in Charlotte, will serve in the same role with the combined company. Selim Bassoul, president and CEO of Six Flags, will serve as executive chairman of the combined company’s board of directors.

Brian Witherow, chief financial officer of Cedar Fair, will serve as chief financial officer of the combined company, and Gary Mick, CFO of Six Flags, will serve as chief integration officer of the combined company.

The newly formed board of directors of the combined company will consist of 12 directors, six from the Cedar Fair board and six from the Six Flags board, according to a news release.

Cedar Fair is currently based in Sandusky, Ohio. Six Flags is based in Arlington, Texas. Significant finance and administrative offices will remain in Sandusky, according to the release. Cedar Fair has had a growing corporate presence in Charlotte for several years, which has sparked speculation it would be moving its headquarters to North Carolina for more than a year.

The two companies have minimal market overlap of park operations. Combining the geographic footprint is expected to mitigate the impact of seasonality and reduce earnings volatility through a more balanced presence in year-round operating climates.

The combined company will also be able to take advantage of intellectual property such as Looney Tunes, DC Comics and Peanuts to develop new attractions, according to the release.

Over the last 12 months, through the third quarter of fiscal 2023, Six Flags and Cedar Fair collectively had 48 million guests, and, as a combined company, would generate pro forma $3.4 billion in revenue, according to the companies.

The boards of both companies have already approved the deal. In the coming months, the two companies will be seeking approval of the merger from the Securities Exchange Commission. Stockholders with Six Flags also must approve the merger. Cedar Fair does not need stockholder approval.

Cedar Fair stock closed Thursday at $37, down 0.51 (-1.36%) while Six Flags closed at $22.36 per share, up $1.36 (6.48%).

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