Matt Ouimet: Being the CEO of a billion dollar amusement park company

by Jeff Putz, April, 2012

The corporate headquarters of the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, nestled in the center of Cedar Point, its flagship amusement park, is not what you might expect. While only a few years old, the lobby is decorated in a decidedly unfashionable wallpaper, and lined with paintings of the men who have operated the storied amusement park, and Cedar Fair, a relatively recent development in the park's century-old history. Last among them is a portrait of Dick Kinzel, who held the top spot at the company for so long that few people remember anyone else in charge.

It's no surprise then, that the appointment of a new CEO after Kinzel's retirement is something that will be very closely watched by enthusiasts and investors alike. The culture change is immediately noticeable when you roam the offices. Gone are the neckties and the six-day summer work weeks. While full-time employees around the organization will credit Ouimet with bringing new energy to the company, the man in the corner office defers most achievements to the people who report to him.

"My team did a great job," he says when I compliment him on the reception of his "Fun Forward" presentation, given to investors at the start of the year. In fact, much of the tone of our conversation, spent walking around a very messy pre-season Cedar Point over the course of 90 minutes, centered on the importance of people from seasonal staff up through the executives. Ouimet operates on a theme of empowerment. He says that it's critical that people question him, because it offers the best chance to avoid serious mistakes.

This interview was shot on April 17, 2012, as construction for Cedar Point's Luminosity show was in full swing, and workers were putting the finishing touches on the Dinosaurs Alive attraction.

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