Kennywood, Lake Compounce, Idlewild sold to Spanish firm

Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:53 PM | Contributed by Toveck

Kennywood and Lake Compounce are being sold. The families that own the Kennywood Entertainment parks have agreed to sell the parks and other holdings to the Spanish-based company Parques Reunidos. The company owns amusement parks throughout Europe and entered the U.S. market this year by purchasing water parks. The companies expect to close on the deal in March.

Read more from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:56 PM
Jeff's avatar And here I thought we'd have nothing to talk about on the podcast this week.

I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall at those family meetings.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 1:04 PM
This is great! I was just thinking to myself the other day, "What the amusement park industry needs right now is more upheaval!" Wish granted. *Sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm*

I really don't want to jump to judgment on this, but any time a relatively little known entity (to most U.S. enthusiasts, at any rate) takes over a park or parks, it makes me very, very nervous.

And I'm not dissing the business decisions involved in this. I'm sure it made a lot of sense financially.

The thing I liked about having the family oversee park development and operations is that they had a steady, slow hand. Slow to invest, but careful and spot on when they did. Now, who knows? Will Parques Reunidos have the same patience and deliberation in these parks? They did just enter the American market this year, so they have a learning curve ahead of them. Running a park in the U.S. is not the same as in Europe. There are different psychologies, different expectations, hell, different buying habits involved.

My concern is that we will see the kind of thoughtless, rapid buildup that Six Flags did to the likes of Geauga Lake. Then, when revenues flatten or go south, perhaps pull the plug or flip the parks to a developer.

I hope PR is a steady, sturdy guardian for these jewels among American parks.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 1:45 PM
No need to apologize for being pessimistic. Kennywood has been a model of satbility for the past century so it's only natural to worry when something like this happens. Let's hope it's "business as usual".
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 1:58 PM
I shudder to think what will become of the likes of the Kangaroo, Noah's Ark, Turtle, etc. Unless the new management is truely 100% on the same wavelength as the current operators, I could unfortunately see them being slowly replaced by off the shelf flats.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:06 PM
Jeff's avatar The park has not been a "model of satbility for the past century." It struggled through the depression like any other entertainment business.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:22 PM
So are you saying that relative to most other parks, Kennywood hasn't been all that stable over the last 100+ years?
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:34 PM
So you're going to blame the park's performance during the country's most significant economic downturn on the ownership? That's beyond idiotic. When it comes to matters not completely beyond the park's control, the ownership of Kennywood was more stable than that of any other amusement park that has existed since the late 1800s. The fact that the amusement park has survived that long is alone testament to stable ownership. Compare Geauga Lake to Kennywood.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:46 PM
Jeff's avatar I'm not blaming or asserting anything, I'm just saying that you were incorrect.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:48 PM
Incorrect with what? My spelling of the word stability? Got me on that one. But as far as what I meant, I'm far from being wrong. I fail to see how a park's ownership can be blamed for the results of an economic disaster that was way beyond anyone's control. If anything, the park's (now-former) ownership deserves accolades for surviving the Depression when hundreds- if not thousands- of amusement parks were lost. How is that a big picture impossible to see?

*** This post was edited by Rob Ascough 12/11/2007 2:49:33 PM ***

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:04 PM
I hope the families knew what they were doing. Seeing another American park, especially one with Kennywood's history, sold to a foreign company doesn't look good.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:10 PM
Well, I'm not so sure about that. Personally I'd love to see Coney Island land sold to the Tivoli people, as was mentioned a few months ago. Maybe this will turn out to be a good thing, especially if there is little management turnover. Still, the potential downside is worth considering.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:28 PM
Jeff's avatar So then if you wanted to be correct, perhaps you should have said, "A model of satbility for the past century if you don't count the times they struggled through due to the depression."
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:29 PM
janfrederick's avatar I noticed the press release mentioned that the two families involved have over 100 members all over the country.

Seems like it would be hard for everyone to stay on the same page. I wonder if there was any infighting behind this? Two families? All over the place? It's amazing they were able to cooperate as long as they have. You'd think one family would have bought out the other at some point.

*** This post was edited by janfrederick 12/11/2007 4:59:07 PM ***

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:35 PM
^^ We're just splitting hairs, so I give up.

^ I always wondered if there was infighting. That seems to happen a lot with partnerships as new generations take over for older generations. What's really odd is that Kennywood just bought Story Land- a small acquisition that probably did little to elevate the sale price of the company (meaning the company probably saw it as a good investment). Maybe this is something that happened very quickly?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:39 PM
While the number of family members has been played down in the media, I've heard that this was one of the primary reasons for selling the company. Evidently the structure of the organization means that all of those family members get input into how the business is run, which certainly would be a challenge with more than a hundred people thousands of miles apart.

I don't understand why a couple of family members didn't buy out the company from the rest rather than sell everything, but that's what happened.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:43 PM
Let's say there are a dozen family members owning the company and the company is worth $150 million (I have no idea if any of those figures are remotely correct but it doesn't matter.) That means each member owns $12.5 million of Kennywood. If two people want to own Kennywood, that means they have to come up with $125 million to buy the others out. Despite the company's success, that's a large loan for anyone to float the members interested in remaining in the business.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:54 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar I am really shocked. I wouldn’t have predicted the families would let go of the business short of facing financial downward spiraling, which unless I’m missing something wasn’t the case. I am particularly surprised about letting go of Kennywood given the long term history. KE has managed to do magnificent things with limited space and resources for that park and really has remained competitive despite adversity.

The Pittsburgh area is one that is rich with tradition, and family, school, work, and ethnic picnic days at Kennywood are no exception. Many folks in the area are attached to long-standing history. And anyone with access to WQED, the local PBS station, has probably seen or heard of Kennywood Memories. I wonder what, if anything, this will do for local attendance.

The good news is that with Kennywood being a National Historic Landmark, I believe there are limitations to what can be changed there and still maintain that status. I hope that is something the new owners intend to preserve.*** This post was edited by Carrie M. 12/11/2007 3:54:44 PM ***

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:56 PM
I'm not done splitting hairs. My knowledge about amusement park history is far from encyclopedic, but from what I do know, I'd venture that Kennywood has been one of, if not perhaps *the* most, stable parks in the U.S. Until this transaction, its had remained in the same family for generations, while preserving an amazing number of historic rides, including some of the oldest wooden coasters around.

Sure sounds stable to me.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007 4:03 PM
I guess our statements should read, "Model of stability, outside large-scale, countrywide, history-altering factors beyond ownership and management control notwithstanding." ;)
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