Amusement park ride for investors isn't over yet

Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:14 PM | Contributed by Jeff

It may all add up to a good year for the industry, but Cedar Fair investors aren't impressed. In a humbling vote yesterday, unit holders voted to strip CEO Dick Kinzel of his chairmanship. An independent chairperson will now be required. The second matter put to a vote -- incredulously proposing that Cedar Fair's emphasis should be on restoring its once chunky yield over paying down its debt -- is actually too close to call as of last night.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:42 PM

Put me down as one of the "incredulous". Dividends are great and all, but paying down debt right now is esp. critical for long-term growth. Short-term thinking annoys me to pieces...but I do understand how that logic comes about - it's what pays the best. ;)

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:43 PM

Here's some video from after the meeting:

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/2011/jan/11/cedar-fair-opts-new-ceo

Dick looks exceptionally uncomfortable there. I don't think I've ever seen him like that.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:48 PM

Funny you say that Jeff because I thought the exact same thing when I saw him there. He looks...well...old and defeated. I honestly don't think this is the way he should be going out. But, he really created this situation and it is getting away from him now.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 2:02 PM

Its all about his posture. He's slumped in the chair, with his hands under the table. It may be subliminal, but he's using the table as a sort of barrier to the questions being asked, or to the whole situation in general.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 5:06 PM

A part of me almost feels bad for the guy, but there are two things I've observed consistently in great leaders that he lacks: 1) The ability to defer to others when you don't have the answer, and 2) The ability to delegate and trust others to do their jobs. Control freak egos like Steve Jobs are probably one in a billion. It just doesn't work in most cases.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:28 PM

Nail on the head.

Kinzel is the Brett Favre of business. There were some great moments in your career, and there is a lot to respect; you just didn't know when to hand the football to someone else.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:44 PM

Thats true, unfortunately, for a lot of folks. Many people stay too long. Tarnishes what they accomplished.

In this case, I understand that Kinzel's contract provides that he will be both CEO and chairman. I would think the company will need to discuss that contract with Kinzel and reach some type of settlement. Remove him from chairman position and breach his contract and possibly pay damages. They could just wait out the end of his contract and look for a new chairman and CEO when he retires. Kinzel could also agree to give up the chairman spot now and let the board find a new one.

Although I agree with separating the roles, the Plain Dealer indicated on Monday that almost 2/3rds of the country's biggest corporations have one person in both roles. There are several public companies that have actions pending to separate the roles though. Not sure what the group of most likely candidates to replace Kinzel in either or both roles would expect. My guess is that a lot of them have big egos that would draw them to want both roles. I think CF was just looking for flexibility in selecting someone if their desired candidate expected both roles. But long term, I think it will be better to have separate positions.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011 8:00 PM

I think there are a number of parallels between Kinzel and Michael Eisner. Both helped build their respective companies to new heights and were lauded and highly respected within the industry. In the end, both imperiled the standing of those organizations with their ego-driven decisions and crashed and burned as a result.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011 7:22 AM

^ I can certainly see many aspects of that comparison.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011 10:19 AM

Thinking about it a little more, I wonder how Kinzel will react to this. He's always been pretty confident when speaking to the media etc. You have to wonder how his persona will change / have to change in the knowledge that the shareholders really aren't happy with his performance and leadership.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011 6:35 PM

Unitholders fixed the staying on, and hanging around problem, Mr. Kinzel seems to suffer.

Retirement was scheduled years ago. Then he stayed on. Recently Mr. Kinzel made a generous offer to unitholders to stick around and serve as the Chairman of the Board following his retirement.

Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Kinzel.

Cedar Fair has, quite frankly, grown beyond your skills to manage it. The vision for Cedar Fair must be more than amusement and water parks with a few hotels tossed in, almost as an after thought.


To grow and prosper CF must have a wider vision and mission. A vision the company has failed to embrace.

Unitholders must now assist with the transition of the Board of Directors and top management to assure Cedar Fair moves quickly to a bright future.


A future which will build upon our past, but will not be hindered by our past.

Thanks to all fellow Unitholders who voted with such conviction.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011 7:16 PM

You're welcome!

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Thursday, January 13, 2011 8:18 PM

Jeff, do the emails come in bold and italics too? ;)

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