Breaking news: Sources tell CoasterBuzz that Jack Falfas has resigned as COO of Cedar Fair

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Two sources external to Cedar Fair have made credible statements to CoasterBuzz indicating that chief operating officer Jack Falfas has resigned from his position with the company. We've sent e-mail to official channels to confirm, and are waiting for a response. Again, this has not been confirmed by the company. Stay tuned...

According to the Cedar Fair Web site, Falfas has been with the company for 33 years and served as COO since 2005.

Jeff's avatar

Trackbolt said:
A foods VP

If you mean the guy who ran foods at CP, he was long overdue to go. The new guy (who isn't actually new, but new to the position last year) is much, much better.

And seriously dude, lay off the exclamation points.

Cedar Fair in some respects also has a long history of promoting people for no other reason than time spent working for the company. Countless people get promoted to middle management jobs just because they put the time in. A lot of those people were not more qualified than the people they canned from Paramount Parks. One of many HR failures.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Well it is very serious problem for the employees and unit holders. Maybe you are on here just to be on here. We have written to the board before and now. We will give our names only when they set a meeting up with us. We have given them all of the information to meet with us. So far no call. As far as our exclamation points I think maybe you need to look at the rest of the forums also. We didn't know this was only for perfect people. As far sa Gary Gochenhour he is a fantastic person and also a very good director. You need to understand that years of service is not how alot of us got promoted. Maybe that is how you were but we take our jobs to heart.We have the inside scoop because we work here and we see it every day. It is heart breaking. We are not telling you the people they put in these positions are not good people. But just have a just a job attitude.

We appologize to all as far as the spelling or grammer. We have to type fast.

mlnem4s's avatar

Trackbolt said:
I believe Bill is a good man and he has a thumb down on him as DK hates him! He had alot of trouble at the GM spot he would never make it working for DK and that position! He is a motivating type guy!

As far as the food goes it is cold! uncooked! Hell at Game Day Grill they had a chicken sandwich sent back by a guest! It was never cooked!

If you look at the cooking and serving areas they are filthy!

I highly doubt Kinzel "hates" Spehn. If it were the case Bill would have been terminated when Geauga Lake closed, instead he was promoted to VP at Cedar Point. And honestly, there were areas at Geauga Lake that were far better run than at Cedar Point which is a direct result of Spehn and his leadership abilities and Kinzel knows that, he's not going to screw up and lose another one of his inner circle.

As for the food situation, I have to say that there really gets to be a point were the seasonal employees need to start taking responsibility for their job. Cold and undercooked food is a reflection on their laziness and lack of care, frankly. Not everything can be a direct result of Kinzel or Resale Director, they simply can't stand in every food outlet every day making sure standards are met, that is what the unit team lead is for. Every single employee is trained appropriately on food handling and preperation procedures; I have gone through the training myself when I worked out in the parks during difficult staffing days. The procedures are common sense and far from being difficult to understand. If policies and procedures are not being followed then their supervisors need to be administering the appropriate disciplinary action.

You are pretty close on most of the comments. But you really need to see it from the inside now!

We agree hate is a bad word. Maybe he is just on the don't screw up list.

Well, considering that he unceremoniously got rid of his #2 guy it sounds like everyone in the company is on the don't screw up list.

Well, everyone that is except those with the last name "Kinzel".

Jeff's avatar

I was under the impression that mlnem4s did see it from the inside.

Trackbolt said:
We appologize to all as far as the spelling or grammer.

Double FAIL.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

If Trackbolt is a full time employee (or couple of employees) then I would offer up this suggestion. Don't ever post in this forum again. Well, that is unless you are ready for a career change. I suspect Trackbolt is a seasonal employee(s) however.

My "insider information" is pretty old now. I haven't been "inside" in a dozen years and I don't put any of my inside connections (however dwindling they have become) in a position to tell me things that I might then share on the Boards. I am simply now an outside observer who saw how Kinzel, Falfas and others operated in my day and I suspect their management style has not changed that much over the years.

I have some personal experiences that make me start out a little biased toward Kinzel. But, he didn't do anything egregious to me and I look at him almost as two different people. The capable leader who grew the company up to the point of the Geauga Lake purchase. And the one I believe is over his head since Geauga Lake, the Paramount purchase, and up to now.

The stuff with his family is irritating because he completely disregards such a basic business principle these days with his blatant disregard for nepotism.

To be fair, I have no knowledge of the capabilities of the son in law. He may be perfectly capable to do what he is doing but you can't get past the grey area there. With the son it is a different matter entirely. Frankly, I applaud the sons who showed the skills to be able to function outside of the family umbrella.

mlnem4s's avatar

Yes, I did work briefly for Cedar Fair when they purchased the Geauga Lake property and built WWK. I spent my youth engulfed with Geauga Lake and Cedar Point in the 70's/80's/90's. Growing up around Aurora it was common for people to actually know Gasper Lococo and Dale Van Voorhis at Funtime; a family friend of Falfas' was an assistant to my mom for many years. As much as I loved this industry, I always thought the coolest thing was our family being friends with the guy who managed the water ski show at Sea World in the 80's (clearly I didn't know better who I should have stuck close too if I wanted to be a GM one day, lol)

I have also worked for Paramount Parks, Six Flags, Funtime and a small family owned FEC briefly. The thing I took away from my experiences are fairly common knowledge about the companies: Paramount was great at resale, knowing their guests/season pass holders, maximizing technology; Cedar Fair is completely an operational-oriented company and "top-down" management style; Six Flags was a cluster F (under Burke/Story); Funtime excelled at group sales and understanding the "blue collar" market. A very close friend of mine was a full timer for Anheuser-Busch and I always felt they were just extremely "polished" and professional at everything they do.

So much has changed today though. What is suppose to be a "FUN" industry really has lost a lot of its luster. The drive to meet financial numbers and performance numbers really makes any job in the industry difficult. I think this is why losing Will Koch this week is so incredibly heart-breaking....he really understood the "value" in fun and making that part of the focus in everyone's job. I think very few people completely understand what a HUGE loss this is for the amusement/recreation industry.

mlnem4s said:
So much has changed today though. What is suppose to be a "FUN" industry really has lost a lot of its luster. The drive to meet financial numbers and performance numbers really makes any job in the industry difficult.

Good stuff in your entire post...but the above is what I'll hit on. The drive to meet financial numbers and performance numbers has been steering companies of ALL kinds over the past decade or two. But, I think we are seeing a turning point. With price levels being consistent from chain to chain (restaurant to restaurant, store to store) I think customer service is going to again rule the day much as McDonald's embraced to launch them ahead of their competition from the 50s through the 80s.

Talk to people who fly a lot. Jet Blue is gaining praise and customer loyalty because of the service they are providing. No baggage fees (as of yet), televisions in the back of every seat, a little more leg room than on other planes, etc. They are setting themselves apart. (Southwest has embraced this to an extent by being creative with their customer interaction.)

Dick cannot lead Cedar Fair into this new customer service age. He doesn't have the skill set. The employee resource has always been an afterthought to him and he won't change at this point. Since I left the company (and even during my short time there) I've been saying that Dick focused too little on people and too much on things (new, shiny things...he was never interested in infrastructure, prevantive mainteance, etc)...and I think it is pretty obvious that has not improved. On the contrary...

mlnem4s's avatar

I think the value in our experiences too was the fact we did more than just work in Park Operations. It's the "glamor department" that everyone wants to be in or thinks of when it comes to what makes a park operate. Both of us had the chance to branch out into all sorts of other areas like HR, accomodations, group sales/marketing, etc. which better equips one to have a "world view." I can say personally for me the one reason I wanted to be a GM is because I LOVE being involved in all aspects of what makes an amusement park operate and I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the entire team.

I again go back to Will Koch, you saw him involved everywhere at Holiday World...one minute he is out greeting the guests to the next minute he is working with Paula doing a vlog post to the next minute he is working with the guys in maintenance solving issues with the Voyage. I saw a lot of that in Bill Spehn too; both men have great respect for everyone's contributions and the importance of it all to the final result.

I am the first one to admit I bash everything related to Kinzel now, yet at the same time it makes me incredibly sad. He could have ended his career and gone out on top and few would have known better how things really are at Cedar Fair. Now, his name and everything he did for the industry is tarnished by the numerous missteps over the past 5-10 years. He did do some good things related to rides, operations, etc. His failure was believing in his ego and abilities, that somehow his skills carried over into all the other areas and nobody could tell him different. Clearly, his judgement was/is wrong and he should take personal responsibility, as well as practice the "integrity" he likes to talk about, and retire from all of his capacities at Cedar Fair.

<smile>

I was with the company when they rolled out the "integrity" cornerstone. We all kind of looked at each other like, "huh"? The four cornerstones suited the company for a long, long time.

Where is the integrity in appointing your son as a GM when he has had a track record of questionable decision making and incompetence? If the CEO of the company...who pushed for that particular cornerstone, cannot live up to the very definition of it...what does that do to everyone else in the company?

Perhaps the worst part is that if Kinzel were to retire, assuming the company does "ok" without him, he should still be able to live comfortably on investments made from his FUN units. If the company does incredibly well without him, he should be able to live comfortably on the distributions from his FUN units. If he were to retire from his positions leading Cedar Fair, he could even continue to be involved (though in a far less direct way) as a stakeholder and board member. Heck, I'd think it would be fun to be able to walk down the midway knowing that the company that you built was now so successful that it could pay you not to work for it anymore! :)

It's interesting to see the comparisons drawn with Will Koch, though. I think such a comparison is truly inappropriate here. Oh, sure, I'd love to see that kind of creative vision leading Cedar Fair...but when you get down to the kind of CEO that Will was for KDC, that's exactly what Cedar Fair DOESN'T need. Cedar Fair needs a CEO who is *LESS* involved with every single detail of running the parks. Cedar Fair is a billion-dollar multinational company that needs a CEO who will manage the shareholders, hold the park managers accountable for their operations, make sure the money gets from where it is made to where it needs to go, and then *gets the hell out of the way*. The CEO needs to set the vision for the company, and then let the management team deliver that vision.

There is a time for a hands-on CEO. That was arguably the right way to run Cedar Fair even as late as, say, 2004, when they were dealing with the mess at Geauga Lake. Heck, it was that kind of involvement that led to the Geauga Lake purchase in the first place. For smaller companies, that actually can work very well, because it allows the CEO to advance his vision for the company. But by the time Cedar Fair was trying to integrate Paramount Parks, and more than doubled in size and scope, it was time for the CEO to become a full-time corporate-focused CEO. Time to be an *executive* instead of a *manager*. And from what I read here, it sounds like Kinzel never successfully made that transition. As a case in point: when the Sandusky Register or Toledo Blade prints a story about Cedar Point's new ride, why are the comments coming from Dick Kinzel instead of John Hildebrandt?

(By the way...as a completely outside observer of both companies, it has looked to me like Mr. Koch had started to make that manager-to-executive transition over at KDC, a company which is not nearly so far along in its maturation as Cedar Fair!)

Oh, and Trackbolt...not sure who you were referring to in your message at the top of pg. 7 ("Maybe you are on here just to be on here...") but that "Jeff" guy is our host here on CoasterBuzz. Best not to get him too mad at you. :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

Jeff's avatar

To expand on the line that Dave is taking, there is a scalability factor when it comes to the amount of involvement a manager can and should have. A CEO of a billion dollar company with this many properties can't and shouldn't be concerned with what's going on at the Gameday Grill. No joke, given the levels of management between Kinzel and seasonals, that'd be like Steve Ballmer getting involved with me and my job at Microsoft (there are five people between me and him). I would suspect that even John Hildebrandt, the GM, would not want to be involved at that level, as he has layers of management in between that he can trust, and the scope of his responsibility includes countless other departments. I think I'd hate his job, with dad trying to supervise all of the time.

The thing I've found in my professional life is that leadership is more a process of guidance and vision. If you treat the people that work for you like grown-ups, they'll likely deliver on the vision you've set. They don't need to be told what to do.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

RideMan said:

snip

It's interesting to see the comparisons drawn with Will Koch, though. I think such a comparison is truly inappropriate here. Oh, sure, I'd love to see that kind of creative vision leading Cedar Fair...but when you get down to the kind of CEO that Will was for KDC, that's exactly what Cedar Fair DOESN'T need. Cedar Fair needs a CEO who is *LESS* involved with every single detail of running the parks. Cedar Fair is a billion-dollar multinational company that needs a CEO who will manage the shareholders, hold the park managers accountable for their operations, make sure the money gets from where it is made to where it needs to go, and then *gets the hell out of the way*. The CEO needs to set the vision for the company, and then let the management team deliver that vision.

snip

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Although I won't ever claim that Al was perfect - Al Weber did leave his GMs alone, as long as they were producing. If they weren't then he would spend some quality time with them. No matter what, Al had his space, and the GM had their space. Al's office was NOT in a park. And he did not spend every day wandering around Carowinds, even though he was 10 minutes away.

Dick couldn't even get hands off enough to put the corp office on the mainland, instead of on the Point.

Now this is probably a Walt Schmidt question...

Anybody know when they moved out of the Cedar Point Building? I see from the Erie County Auditor's site that the property is apparently owned by "Boeckling, L.P." which is a subsidiary of You Know Who. A little less obvious than "Magnum Management Corporation" unless you know the history...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

Boeckling, L.P. is owned by Voldemort? Gads! I guess Kinzel really has gone over to the Dark side. ;)


My author website: mgrantroberts.com

mlnem4s's avatar

Power&Control said:
Dick couldn't even get hands off enough to put the corp office on the mainland, instead of on the Point.

See, this is one instance where I don't think anyone from outside the area could appreciate the understanding of keeping the corporate office "on point." We are approaching 150 years of history there, which in a country that throws everything away and doesn't care about history, is impressive. Everyone already knows what an amazing setting the park is which envokes the magical seaside amusement parks of long ago.

The trick is to find a CEO who doesn't live in the parking lot, literally :)

Last edited by mlnem4s,

I don't think you have to have the true corporate offices on the peninsula. Build something specifically for conference/meeting use, or renovate a section of the top floor of the east wing of Breakers to provide that captivating view for visiting executives or whoever. Have the main corporate office on the mainland (either across from Castaway Bay or by Breakers Express) in a nice, shiny new building that would also impress visiting executives on their way to the peninsula for the meeting.


Original BlueStreak64

Jeff's avatar

I can't think of a single good reason to have the corporate headquarters where they built it other than the fact that Dick wouldn't have to drive as far.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Gemini's avatar

RideMan said:
Anybody know when they moved out of the Cedar Point Building?

It's been a long time. Definitely before 1970 and likely before 1950.


Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

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