Vote of the Week: Should SeaWorld Buy Cedar Fair?

February 5, 2022, 4:27 PM · What happens next with SeaWorld Entertainment's attempt to buy the Cedar Fair chain of parks? Right now, we are waiting for Cedar Fair's board to decide whether or not to take the proposed deal to the company's unit holders.

Back in 2019, Cedar Fair's board rejected a $70 a share bid from Six Flags, and SeaWorld's $60-a-share proposal is $10 a share less than that. Yes, the pandemic hurt a lot of travel businesses, including theme parks. But is the damage enough to allow SeaWorld to snatch parks including Knott's Berry Farm, Canada's Wonderland, Cedar Point, and Kings Island at a discount?

Cedar Fair has endured other takeover attempts before. Asset management firm Apollo tried in 2010, too. It's interesting to note that current SeaWorld chairman Scott Ross was a Partner at Apollo when it made its Cedar Fair bid, so this is not his first attempt at buying the theme park chain.

What would a SeaWorld takeover of Cedar Fair look like for theme park fans? The two companies have competing parks in Virginia and Southern California. Would owning multiple parks in those markets help or hurt a combined company? Would an expanded SeaWorld hold on to all of the parks it would control under the deal, or would it sell some to raise cash? How much money would SeaWorld need to borrow to pull off this proposed all-cash deal, and how would that affect the combined company's ability to invest in new attractions in the years ahead?

On the IP front, the deal presumably would give the Cedar Fair park access to SeaWorld's license for Sesame Street. Which Cedar Fair parks would convert their Peanuts-themed children's lands to Sesame Street? Would any add Sesame Street while keeping Peanuts? Would any SeaWorld or Busch Gardens parks want to add Snoopy and company to their line-up?

Photo courtesy Cedar Fair

And who would run this company? SeaWorld's C-suite has felt like its highest-capacity attraction in recent years, with so many executives coming and going. And several of them have trash talked Ross on their way out, too. Meanwhile, Cedar Fair has provided a model of relative stability with its corporate management. But the buying company rarely favors a bought company's management over its own. If this deal goes through, it's Ross's show to run.

Tell us what you would like to see happen next.

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Replies (9)

February 5, 2022 at 6:10 PM

I love both chains, but SeaWorld can't even take care of the parks they already own. Why would I want them taking on twice as much?

And Cedar Fair buying SeaWorld also gets a vote of no confidence from me. Their parks are lovely to walk through and I'd hate to see some of the current and future theming get stripped down.

February 6, 2022 at 12:00 AM

Keep them apart. All these mergers is a bad for competition. Plus, isn’t Sea World in debt for owning the various coasters companies money for their various coasters built in the last few years? How come they have money to buy another chain buy not pay for their newer coasters?

February 6, 2022 at 5:23 AM

If the Sea World / Cedar Fair deal does not go through Bob Chapek should be fired. Of course if the Sea World / Cedar Fair deal DOES go through ... Bob Chapek should be fired.

February 6, 2022 at 6:36 AM

Sea World could benefit from a bold move to re-invent its brand, as it continues to move away from animal based entertainment as its primary advertising image. As a business move, its not a bad idea; buy another successful business, and blend your image into theirs to create synergy and excitement, and a whole new name and image moving forward. "Cedar Seas" or "Fair Sea World" or "Cedar World" or "World Fair" (that one might be taken)
Hopefully, if it goes through, it will be more like Google & Android merging, rather that AOL & Time Warner.

February 6, 2022 at 6:58 AM

Just because Seaworld may buy Cedar Fair does not mean that the Seaworld Board will not put the Cedar Fair management in charge of the combined company. Therefore those who vote either to go ahead with the merger or that Cedar Fair should buy Seaworld should be combined.

Now, I have no idea how or where Seaworld is getting the 3.4 billion, but if it is all debt, I oppose that. If it is that they are working with others and already have deals to sell off some of the parks, then it could work. If they actually had the cash, I would also favor the merger, but both companies already have too much debt.

February 6, 2022 at 8:24 PM

As others note, I have no idea how Sea World can afford this given their issues and much prefer Cedar Fair on its own.

February 7, 2022 at 6:40 AM

i'd say this would be a good idea IF they were still owned by AB. i've been going to sea world orlando and busch gardens tampa often these past 32 years i'ved in orlando. withouth doubt, the parks thrived during the AB ownership and i often said they had THE BEST food options of the big 3. not anymore. they have added some nice new toys since AB left, but the overall park experience is nothing like when AB was running the show.

February 7, 2022 at 9:48 AM

Has the theme park industry learned nothing from the Six Flags over-expansion many years ago? It was a disaster that almost tanked the chain. Cedar Fair has made all their parks high quality - in both appearance and customer service. I think Sea World could really erode the brand if they were to purchase the Cedar Fair parks - and Crown Jewels like Knott’s and Cedar Point would be tarnished.

February 7, 2022 at 11:10 AM

Antitrust Laws should be reinforced dramatically, instead of getting ridiculed always more... (Especially in the media and amusement industry, as they always escape serious merger investigation procedures.)

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