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Worlds of Fun owner and Six Flags to merge into 'largest amusement park operator' in U.S.

The peak of a rollercoaster is silhouetted against a deep orange and blue sky with riders cresting the hill.
Charlie Riedel
In this July 3, 2017, file photo, people ride a roller coaster at dusk at the Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City. The park announced Wednesday that guests younger than 16 years old will be required to have a 21-year-old chaperone to gain entrance to the park.

Cedar Fair — the parent company of Worlds of Fun in Kansas City — and Six Flags plan a merger that will unite 27 amusement parks and 15 water parks across the United States.

Worlds of Fun and Cedar Point's parent company, Cedar Fair Entertainment, is merging with another major amusement park operator, Six Flags.

The announcement was made Thursday morning by executives from both organizations. It would make the combined company the largest regional amusement park operator in the country, valued at $8 billion, with 27 amusement parks and 15 water parks, according to statistics provided by Cedar Fair.

"Inside our parks, we expect to leverage the capabilities of both companies to create a more engaging and immersive experience so that guests choose us from amid the wide array of options they have to spend their leisure time and leisure money," said Cedar Fair Chief Executive Officer and President Richard Zimmerman in a public conference call Thursday morning. Zimmerman will lead the new combined company.

Cedar Fair laid out the financials for investors and the media in Thursday’s conference call, estimating the merger would generate $120 million in cost savings within two years and $826 million in free cash flow. The merger expects to create $3.4 billion in revenue.

The combining of the two organizations was done with a focus on the customers, according to Six Flags CEO Selim Bassoul, who will become executive chairman of the new company's combined board of directors.

"This transaction is all about our guests,” Bassoul told those listening-in on Thursday’s conference call, where the merger was detailed. “The value it will create, for them, the additional perks we will provide and the additional thrills we will create."

Specifics on any new “perks” or “thrills” are unclear. The potential for a season pass sharing system was mentioned in the call. Charlie Brown and Snoopy may have some new friends to join them too. In a handout about the merger, live entertainment was a focus: “Capitalizing on entertainment partnerships and a portfolio of beloved IP [Intellectual Property] such as Looney Tunes, DC Comics and PEANUTS to develop engaging new attractions.”

Zimmerman doesn’t anticipate re-branding of the individual parks, including Cedar Point, but said the company will consider changes and upgrades at all locations.

“I think there's opportunity on both sides to continue to improve our sites, improve our parks, listen to our guests and what they value," Zimmerman replied when asked about park changes.

Cedar Fair is currently based in Sandusky, Ohio, but in a statement, Cedar Fair said a new, merged corporate office will move to North Carolina with “significant finance and administrative operations in Sandusky.” The board of directors will be made up of six executives from Cedar Fair and six from Six Flags.

In a joint statement, Cedar Fair and Six Flags announced, “the combined company will operate under the name Six Flags and trade under the ticker symbol FUN on the NYSE and will be structured as a C Corporation.”

The merger must be approved by the Federal Trade Commission. Zimmerman expects the deal to close in the first part of 2024.

Cedar Point has been a staple along Lake Erie in Northern Ohio since 1870. There were previous discussions of a sale or merger, the latest occurring in 2022.

Worlds of Fun celebrated its 50th anniversary in Kansas City this year. The park was originally co-created by Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, and acquired by Cedar Fair in 1995.

Copyright 2023 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Josh Boose
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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