SeaWorld must convince fans in proposed Knott takeover – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
This month, SeaWorld shook up the theme park community with an unsolicited offer to buy popular amusement park chain Cedar Fair. Should the deal go through, it would place Knott’s Berry Farm, Gilroy Gardens and California’s Great America under the same corporate management as SeaWorld San Diego and the new Sesame Place park in Chula Vista.
Would this be a good thing for theme park fans? I asked readers about ThemeParkInsider.com and more than half said they didn’t want the deal. The rest were evenly split between those who agreed with the takeover and those who would have preferred Cedar Fair to buy SeaWorld.
One of the big questions raised by SeaWorld’s proposal is who would run this expanded theme park company? SeaWorld appears to have installed a revolving door on its C suite, having seen twice as many CEOs as Cedar Fair over the past decade. Would this deal bring management stability to SeaWorld, or would it just throw Cedar Fair into turmoil?
In addition to Knott’s and California’s Great America, Cedar Fair owns Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, Canada’s Wonderland just outside of Toronto, and half a dozen other seasonal parks in the United States, including Kings Dominion, just up the road from SeaWorld’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg Virginia. SeaWorld also has theme parks in Orlando and San Antonio in addition to Busch Gardens Tampa and the original Sesame Place just outside of Philadelphia.
Cedar Fair is no stranger to corporate offerings. In 2019, the company turned down an offer to acquire Six Flags, at a price $10 per share higher than what SeaWorld is currently offering. In 2010, Cedar Fair rejected a proposal from Apollo Global Management. It should be noted that one of the directors of Apollo at the time was Scott Ross, who is now the president of SeaWorld.
In 2006, Cedar Fair was on the other side of the table, buying five Paramount-branded parks – including Kings Island and Kings Dominion – from CBS Corporation when CBS decided to pull out of the theme park business.
With this proposal and its imminent opening of four roller coasters in parks across the country, SeaWorld seems to be looking to move towards more traditional theme park attractions rather than relying on exhibits and animal shows. for which the company has long been known. Without the Hollywood studio ties that allow Disney and Universal to build nine-figure attractions based on iconic entertainment franchises, Cedar Fair, SeaWorld and Six Flags must take different approaches to appealing to family audiences.
Cedar Fair offers roller coasters, children’s playgrounds and other traditional theme park attractions, as well as anyone in the business. It’s a big chain, so it’s no wonder competitors like Six Flags and SeaWorld want to be associated with Cedar Fair’s parks. But fans don’t want to lose what has made Cedar Fair parks so special over the years. If SeaWorld wants these parks, they don’t just need to win over the Cedar Fair board. They also need to convince Cedar Fair fans.