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Al Weber to Serve as President and Interim CEO of Six Flags


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Press Release From Six Flags:

 

Al Weber to Serve as President and Interim CEO of Six Flags

Company Well-Positioned for Success under New Leadership as Busy Summer Season Begins

 

Board to Initiate Search for Permanent CEO

 

NEW YORK – May 12, 2010 – Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (“Six Flags”) today announced that Alexander “Al” Weber, Jr., former President and CEO of Paramount Parks, Inc., has been named President and Interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. The Company is retaining a leading executive search firm and will consider both internal and external candidates to serve as Chief Executive Officer on a permanent basis.

 

“I am excited to have this opportunity to serve as President and Interim Chief Executive Officer of Six Flags,” said Weber. “The Company has made great strides to improve park operations and has significantly reduced its outstanding debt, paving the way for Six Flags to continue investing in its operations to provide an even more enjoyable experience for the whole family.”

 

Weber continued, “I thank Six Flags’ dedicated employees for their commitment to the Company and to providing guests with friendly, safe and clean services at all of our parks. Six Flags has been entertaining families and has been an important part of the communities in which it operates for nearly fifty years. Today, the Company is stronger than ever, with a solid financial position and a positive outlook for the upcoming summer season. The Company is poised for continued growth and success and I look forward to working with the Board of Directors, management team and all of the Company’s employees to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.”

 

* Six Flags’ recent accomplishments include:

* Outstanding customer satisfaction: Six Flags has achieved all-time high guest approval ratings based on product offering, atmosphere, value, employee service and safety.

* World-class facilities: The Company has upgraded and invested in all of the parks and added numerous family friendly rides and attractions, and today the parks are in great condition.

* Focus on family: Six Flags has become more family friendly through the creation of a more diversified family entertainment experience, with activities that appeal to all age groups.

* Commitment to the community: The Company has implemented a company-wide green initiative across its theme park and water park locations, and through its “Six Flags Friends” program, provides community service, supports non-profit organizations and grants educational scholarships.

* Financial strength: Six Flags’ recently completed balance sheet restructuring to reduce the Company’s outstanding debt by 60%, making Six Flags one of the least levered companies in the theme park industry and allowing for continued investment in parks and attractions.

 

The Company also today announced Mark Shapiro, the Company’s former President and Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors, is no longer with the Company.

 

 

About Al Weber

Al Weber has 40 years of experience in the regional theme park business. He has successfully implemented new business strategies, organizational improvements and growth initiatives. Previously, Weber served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Palace Entertainment, LLC, the largest water park and family entertainment center company in the United States. Prior to that, Weber served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Parks, Inc from 2002 to 2006. Weber received a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Xavier University, and a Doctorate in Organization and Management from Capella University.

 

About Six Flags

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, a publicly-traded corporation headquartered in New York City, is the largest regional theme park operator in the world with 13 major parks in the United States, Mexico and Canada and approximately 800 rides (including more than 120 roller coasters).

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I'm looking at this as a positive step, although it's surprising they've appointed an interim CEO. It's always good to have someone with more park experience at the helm. The Paramount Parks were fairly well run (better than CF is running them), but like Warner Brothers relationship with Six Flags, it was a fad of media diversification in trying to imitate the success of Disney that investors lost a taste for as they focused more on short term profits than building brands and creating vertical marketing opportunities. The PP management did a lot of good things while they were running the show and since now is decision making time for 2011, it will be interesting to see how things shape up.

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That's GREAT news! They actually put someone in charge who has theme park experience, what a concept! Although Paramount Parks are not the greatest brand either, at least he's not coming in totally blind. He may not be permanant, either. As they search for a new CEO, if this man is not what they choose, I hope they choose someone with experience.

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Al has over 40 years of experience in the industry and he worked with Larry Cochran at Palace Entertainment. That should make some people happy...

 

He also ran Kings Island while they were adding the Great Wolf Lodge to their property... :D

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If Six Flags ever wants to go public again, this was a needed step. Kudos to the Board of Directors for recognizing this, as well as installing Mr. Weber on an "interim" basis. Six Flags often tries to position themselves as a "theme park" operator, as opposed to an "amusement park" operator ala Cedar Fair. While this may seem like semantics; it actually is quite the divide.

 

I haven't really followed Paramunt Parks too closely, so I'm not familiar with Al Weber's performance as a CEO. Despite well utilized tie-ins to various Viacom properties under his tenure (and their ownership before Viacom became CBS Corp. That's no mistake in terms by the way. "Viacom" is actually a new company separate of the old Viacom.), theming levels and ride decisions were questionable (Hypersonic anyone?). Hopefully unlike previous management, Mr. Weber won't be seeking unwanted movie studios to acquire or inserting his bosses recently purchased fast food joints all over his parks (Johnny Rockets is owned by Daniel Snyder).

 

I see this as a positive step forward for Six Flags, and can't wait to hear Mr. Weber's vision for the company. Ideally Six Flags can cherry pick someone from Busch Entertainment or Universal Orlando. We'll miss the cheap season passes, but will welcome the commitment to quality.

Edited by Thunderbolt
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From the Washington Post:

 

Six Flags CEO leaves after bankruptcy reorganization

By Thomas Heath

Thursday, May 13, 2010

 

Six Flags chief executive Mark Shapiro, who was chosen for the job by Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder more than four years ago, has left the theme-park operator, the company said Wednesday.

 

Shapiro's departure comes less than two weeks after the company won approval for its bankruptcy reorganization and brings to a close Snyder's attempt to turn Six Flags into the centerpiece of an entertainment empire.

 

Snyder took control of Six Flags in 2005 after a bitter proxy fight and became its chairman. But the company collapsed under $2.4 billion in debt that he inherited from Six Flags' previous owners and filed for Chapter 11 protection.

 

Under a recent reorganization plan submitted by Six Flags' junior bondholders, nine people, including Shapiro, were named directors of the restructured company, according to a filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

 

However, Snyder and his friend and Redskins partner, Dwight C. Schar, declined to seek reappointment to the reorganized company's board. As a result of the bankruptcy, Snyder lost his equity investment in Six Flags, which at one time was roughly 5 to 6 percent of the company.

 

Shapiro did not return messages requesting comment.

 

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said Shapiro and the theme park's new owners did not agree on an operational strategy for the company moving forward.

 

Snyder and Shapiro, a former ESPN executive, had sought to create a more family-friendly atmosphere at Six Flags by adding attractions while forging partnerships with sponsors such as Sara Lee and Chase Card Services.

 

Entertainment sources, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Shapiro maintains a close relationship with Snyder and will continue to oversee Dick Clark Productions, the television home of the Golden Globe Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards and "American Bandstand." Red Zone Capital, Snyder's private equity firm, bought Dick Clark Productions in 2007 for $175 million in hopes of incorporating its features in Six Flags parks.

 

In a statement, Snyder called Shapiro's departure a loss for Six Flags. "Mark Shapiro bravely led Six Flags through an incredibly difficult period. He has been an energetic, optimistic leader and problem solver," Snyder said. "Most of all I admire his tenacious dedication to protect the interests of the 28,000 Six Flags associates during this period of transition."

 

Six Flags, which owns about 20 parks throughout North America, said Wednesday it had named Alexander Weber Jr. as president and interim chief executive, and had hired an executive search firm to find a replacement.

 

This is interesting...

"A source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said Shapiro and the theme park's new owners did not agree on an operational strategy for the company moving forward."

 

So apparently they are planning on making some changes. We'll have to see what happens next.

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If Six Flags ever wants to go public again, this was a needed step. Kudos to the Board of Directors for recognizing this, as well as installing Mr. Weber on an "interim" basis. Six Flags often tries to position themselves as a "theme park" operator, as opposed to an "amusement park" operator ala Cedar Fair. While this may seem like semantics; it actually is quite the divide.

 

I haven't really followed Paramunt Parks too closely, so I'm not familiar with Al Weber's performance as a CEO. Despite well utilized tie-ins to various Viacom properties under his tenure (and their ownership before Viacom became CBS Corp. That's no mistake in terms by the way. "Viacom" is actually a new company separate of the old Viacom.), theming levels and ride decisions were questionable (Hypersonic anyone?). Hopefully unlike previous management, Mr. Weber won't be seeking unwanted movie studios to acquire or inserting his bosses recently purchased fast food joints all over his parks (Johnny Rockets is owned by Daniel Snyder).

 

I see this as a positive step forward for Six Flags, and can't wait to hear Mr. Weber's vision for the company. Ideally Six Flags can cherry pick someone from Busch Entertainment or Universal Orlando. We'll miss the cheap season passes, but will welcome the commitment to quality.

 

I couldn't agree more.

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I just saw this on screamscape...I'm a little surprised right after they exited bankruptcy he's gone but hopefully this is another step in the right direction. I wasn't the biggest fan of Mark but this new guy seems to know how things are supposed to run.

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First off, that's just a rumor. Second, downsizing may just mean we'll be back to "not every park gets the same capex". Yes, in theory saying "we'll spend about $7 million on each park" was a good idea, but spending more on specific parks and less on others is a BETTER idea when only some park's can make the money back easily. He also specifically mentioned that when the big parks have a bad year the company has a bad year, which COULD mean that we'll see increased investment in specific parks like GA since they can recoup that investment.

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I'm trying to be cautiuosly optimistic. I'm glad he has theme park experience, but a little nervous about it being with Paramount Parks. They have made a lot of the same mistakes that Six Flags has made in the past and have suffered for it.

 

I hope he actually learned from those mistakes.

 

I hope they find a great CEO.

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Just remember when those things happened at Paramount Parks was after Viacom started losing money and losing interest in running the parks so they reduced investments. Also, PGA is (and always has been) an underperforming park. That's why Six Flags didn't purchase it along with its sister park and why it gets no respect. Stealth was only added to that park to counter the flagging of SFDK and when it didn't help, it was removed. Like many parks that underperform (like Geauga Lake) it has slowly been losing rides and adding more waterpark attractions which costs less to build and operate.

 

I saw the thing on Screamscape about "copy and paste" rides added while he ran Paramount Parks, and the same thing could be said about just about any theme park chain including Disney. If you spend money developing an attraction it makes sense to roll it out to all your locations, especially in the case of regional parks where most guests don't even realize that other parks even exist, let alone that they might have some of the same rides.

 

These are different circumstances, and if we look to Al Weber's history as an indicator of the future, I think look at his tenure at KI is probably the best gauge of the ideas he might have for the company's flagship parks.

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I'm a big fan of how the Paramount Parks were run pre-CF, and I'm not such a big fan of crappy, video-based Dick Clark shows, on-ride audio that stops working after ten months, or Johnny Rocket's in Mexican or Western sections. I also like flat rides, which PP had in abundance under Weber. Don't get me wrong--Shapiro has indisputably made GREAT strides towards making the parks more family-friendly and rebuilding the company backstage (a big achievement for which he is rarely credited), but I think that Six Flags can reach from that foundation to new heights as they focus perhaps more on theme park basics and less on things like orange carpet Discover Card entrances. Hearing that Shapiro disagreed with the new guys could go either way, but I'm leaning towards thinking it's good news, as they probably want to run the parks more traditionally, and less like a sports stadium.

Edited by pashacar
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I am not surprised to hear Shapiro is gone, I figured he would only last a few years. At least Weber has a lot of experience in the amusement park industry.

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  • 1 month later...

I had nothing against Shapiro. He focused of "family's", GA needed that. I think switching CEO's all the time is the problem with Six Flags, no one ever get's to realize a "vision" of what they want it to be. Already our plans for next year have been changed, and we are back to getting a big Coaster again. Not that I am mad about that, but the theater would have been nice with some flat's.

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I feel like he made the park less family friendly at least in terms of rides. Removing or making many of the smaller rides SBNO without replacing them like the swings and bumper cars. There are fewer family rides in the park now probably more than ever in the history of the park which I hope is fixed in the next couple of years. Antique cars, an interactive dark ride and some family flats would help a lot.

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What they did recently was add a lot of kiddie rides, which is good, but without something for the adults and seniors to enjoy they will not bring the kids to ride them.

 

I think they have to do more than just change CEOs, that doesn't ever seem to change the parks' direction. They need to change the designers and people that decide what gets put in the parks and where. I don't think the CEO gets too involved in those details.

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