Cedar Fair, Parent Company of Cincinnati's Kings Island, Rejects SeaWorld's Proposed Takeover

It looks like Shamu and Big Bird won't be riding the Beast anytime soon.

Feb 16, 2022 at 10:54 am
click to enlarge Kings Island's giga-coaster Orion n 2021 - photo: provided by Kings Island
photo: provided by Kings Island
Kings Island's giga-coaster Orion n 2021

It looks like Shamu and Big Bird won't be riding the Beast anytime soon.

On Tuesday, SeaWorld Entertainment reported that Cedar Fair — the company that owns Kings Island, Cedar Point and other amusement parks — turned down a reported $3.4 billion cash offer to be acquired. SeaWorld's interest and offer largely had been a secret until business outlets began reporting on it in early February.

"In response to inquiries from various stakeholders, we confirm that our offer to acquire Cedar Fair was rejected. Unfortunately, we do not see a path to a transaction," SeaWorld wrote in a Feb. 15 statement.

In contrast, Cedar Fair did not release a statement about its rejection of SeaWorld's offer. But Wednesday morning — perhaps in response to the attention — the company shared a release detailing its figures for both the fourth quarter and the full year of 2021, including:
  • Net revenues for 2021 totaled $1.34 billion compared with $1.47 billion for 2019, driven by:
  • Attendance that approximated 70% of 2019 levels (85% on a comparable operating day basis) (1);
  • Record in-park per capita spending of $62.03, representing a 28% increase over 2019 in-park per capita spending of $48.32, with double-digit increases across all key revenue categories; and
  • Out-of-park revenues of $168 million, which was comparable to 2019 levels.

  • Net loss and Adjusted EBITDA(2) for 2021 totaled $49 million and $325 million, respectively, compared with net income of $172 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $505 million for 2019.

  • Through early February, sales of 2022 season passes and all-season products are pacing ahead of the then-record pace set for the sale of 2020 season pass products.
"We are extremely pleased with our 2021 results, particularly given the level of uncertainty with which we entered the year and the ongoing headwinds of the pandemic," Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman said in the release. "Our key strategic initiatives focused on broadening and enhancing the guest experience are clearly resonating with consumers. As a result, we produced revenues over the second half of 2021 that outpaced the record revenues of the comparable six-month period in 2019 by 14%, an increase of more than $130 million. Our outstanding performance is a testament to the agility and insight of our talented team as they overcame unprecedented challenges of 2021."

Cedar Fair’s flagship property is Cedar Point in northern Ohio, but the company, which is headquartered in Sandusky, also owns and operates a number of other amusement parks (including Kings Island in Cincinnati, home of record-breaking wooden rollercoaster the Beast), water parks and hotels.

Had Cedar Fair accepted SeaWorld's offer, its parks would have joined SeaWorld's attractions of its namesake marine-life park, Sesame Place, Busch Gardens and others.

Both SeaWorld and Cedar Fair were hit hard by the pandemic, but CNBC reported in February that when news of the "takeover offer" was first reported by Bloomberg, Cedar Fair's stock soared by more than 15%, closing at its highest level of the past year.

Over the past year, Cedar Fair dramatically increased wages for part-time staff. Cedar Point doubled its wages for seasonal workers, from $10 to $20 per hour, effectively ending its worker shortage as applicants poured in for the suddenly attractive jobs. Likewise, Kings Island upped its starting wage for 900 seasonal positions to $18 per hour for the 2021 season.

Cedar Point also raised its daily ticket price to $85 this year, a $10 increase from the 2021 rates. Though few pay full-price when they go to Cedar Point — coupons and online discounts run rampant — the price hike was interpreted as a response to the economic stressors of the pandemic and the wage increases of the year before. 

SeaWorld had a presence in Ohio from 1970 until 2000, at which point the Aurora location was overtaken by neighboring Six Flags (formerly Geauga Lake).

Sam Allard contributed to this story.

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