I thought that this sale was a bit of a panic move from the beginning. Cedar Fair's debt load does have some size, but I don't think it's something they can't deal with. The selling price was too low, and the majority of Cedar Fair's investors agree with me, judging by their activism against the sale. Put it this way, it's real easy for upper management to sell a company when they get paid for their stocks and still get to keep their jobs. The economy has made their jobs hard, but it will recover and so will the company, provided they remain focused on the things that made them great.
When parks fall out of the hands of entertainers, and into the hands of corporate businessmen who care only about the bottom line, they become subject to the rule of money and money alone. Apollo is an investment firm that knows little about amusement parks, and cares just as little about them too. All they care about is profitability. Not that making money is a bad thing, but in this business the money comes by putting out a good product, not making cuts everywhere. At least Cedar Fair the company knows how to please it's fans and entertain them while making some money at the same time. I would much rather have the parks remain in their hands and under some manageable financial stress than in the hands of some corporate investment firm.
Interestingly enough, it's rumored that Apollo was also talking to Six Flags.
Cedar Fair needs to restructure its debt, find a new investor or sell. If it doesn't, then it faces the future that Six Flags just lived - financial instability leading to a) management takeover or b) bankruptcy or c) both.
The Apollo deal would have solved the debt problem, but with the economy showing a bit of improvement (or at least the lack of a crisis), and a market being established for theme park deals with SeaWorld and NBC/Uni, I can see easily why Q Investments and other Cedar Fair stakeholders saw the Apollo price as too low.
But just because Cedar Fair didn't do this deal doesn't mean that Cedar Fair can avoid making some deal in the near future.
The debt is the main problem, but I think that they can get the debt restructured. The credit markets aren't frozen solid anymore, and the company is still very profitable. It isn't really underperforming, given the economic circumstances...which are getting better, and it's profitable. There is still some room for growth, particularly in Charlotte with Carowinds and the new coaster. Kings Dominion will also get some attention with their version of Intimidator. The economies in their respective cities/areas are better off than most.
I just don't buy that the company is in that much trouble that it absolutely needs to be sold. That doesn't mean it won't be, but given the stockholders attitude towards Apollo...it will be a tough sell.