Bye-bye, Paramount: CBS to get out of theme park business

January 26, 2006, 8:56 PM · Well, it is now official. CBS Corporation is turning its back on the synergy held by its competitors ABC and NBC and is getting out of the theme park business.

The recently spun-off former unit of Viacom is looking for a buyer for its theme parks: Paramount Canada's Wonderland, Paramount's Carowinds, Paramount's Great America, Paramount's Kings Dominion and Paramount's Kings Island. The parks drew a collective 12 million visitors in 2005, but the lack of a park in either the Central Florida or the Southern California market has historically undercut the chain's attendance and cross-promotional value.

In a statement, CBS said "numerous parties have already expressed interest in acquiring the operation" and that it expects to complete a deal by the second half of this year.

Within the past 12 months, both the Six Flags and Legoland chains have switched owners. An investment group led by NFL owner Daniel Snyder obtained Six Flags, while Merlin Entertainments Group, with funding from the Blackstone Group, half-owners of the Universal Orlando Resort, took over Legoland.

Great America, by far the weakest of the parks, is in the same market (the San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland Bay Area) as a Six Flags park. And Kings Dominion stands just up the road from Busch Gardens' Williamsburg park. But the other parks do not share their markets with any other competing parks.

Among other theme park companies, neither Disney (owner of the ABC network) nor Universal (owned by NBC) have ever bought a competitor's park. Six Flags is still trying to get its debt-ridden finances in order, though Snyder is known as an aggressive businessman. That leaves Cedar Fair, which obtained Geauga Lake from Six Flags last year, and Busch, which last expanded when it bought the SeaWorld chain from book publisher Harcourt Brace. An investment firm buyout, such as the one that led the Legoland sale, is, of course, also a possibility.

Replies (5)

January 27, 2006 at 8:12 AM · Another possibility is for CBS to sell the parks piecemeal. As a King's Dominion passholder, I'd be delighted if Cedar Fair bought PKD, but I don't think that it would make a lot of business sense for CF to buy all the parks in the chain. That would leave them with all 3 major parks in Ohio, which strikes me as overkill.
January 27, 2006 at 10:13 AM · I know this comment will drive Ben Mills nuts, but it just occurred to me that if Tussaud's ever wanted to get into the U.S. market, this would be the opportunity.
January 27, 2006 at 3:06 PM · I hope someone buys it.and someone good.becuase paramount park are the closes theme park to me (carowinds).if they do mind, I'll buy.Ill just need a loan.Yall know anyone that well let me borrow a couple million?
January 28, 2006 at 8:18 AM · On what basis does the statement claiming Great America as "by far the weakest" in the family enter in here? Profitability certainly doesn't support this claim.
January 28, 2006 at 1:02 PM · Attendance. Attraction quality. PGA has the smallest attendance in the chain and hasn't had a major new attraction in years. Which will only serve to depress attendance -- and, following, profitability -- in years to come. You can't save your way to long-term profitability in this business. You have to invest.

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