Kiernan Burke on borrowed time?

Friday, July 18, 2003 6:49 AM
Okay, we all know the weather flat out sucked on the east coast during the spring and early summer. Now SF is saying it hurt the performance of the company again. Sounds like the same story from last year, the difference is, I believe it this year since I witnessed it first hand. If the park doesn't muster a better second half? Will Kiernan Burke and the other sr. management of Six Flags be able to hang on for another season, or will the investors oust Burke, appoint a interim CEO and search for a replacement for the 2005 season? Can the park withstand a management shake up that might last until 2005? I'm beginning to loose confidence in Mr. Burke and his management, I believe a management shake up is going to be necessary and it will need to be a quick one because I don't think the company can hold a long executive search and survive the 2004 season.

Can the park survive a bankruptcy? After U.S. Airways managed to pull of the miracle they pulled off, I believe anything is possible.
*** This post was edited by coasterguts 7/18/2003 10:51:19 AM ***

Friday, July 18, 2003 7:15 AM
The sooner Burke is ousted the better IMO because that guy just hasn't been able to live up to the promises he's made to so many people nationwide when he said " we're gonna turn you local amusement park into the largest & finest six flags park in the chain".

It seems that Burke doesn't have the management skills that a once mighty company like SF needs to survive in the industry,he was too accustomed to management at a smaller level during the Premier parks days when at most his company only had 12 to 14 small time parks to manage.

Friday, July 18, 2003 7:49 AM
Burke is a banker and lawyer. While those are noble professions, I don't think they qualify you to run an amusement park company. The COO (Gary Story) is a career industry guy, and I think it's good to see him in that position. Obviously I don't know anything about his business skills, but all of the VP's below him are industry folk too.

Compare this to Cedar Fair, run by a guy who started out as a seasonal. We know that company is full of inbreeding, and it shows in the way they care about their parks. Heck, I know for certain that some execs were approached by Universal prior to IOA's opening.

Paramount Parks I don't know all that much about, but from seeing various press releases and such in the past couple of years, they seem to be on a track to put industry people in charge and promote from within. I think that shows in the ever increasing quality of their parks.

I feel that Six Flags is a bank project. That's fine in the short term, but the long term sustainable business has to be one of guest experience. I question if a non-industry lifer is capable of guiding the company in that manner.

It has been clear over the past five years or so that most Six Flags properties inherit to some degree the culture of their prior owners, which explains the varied experiences we've all had from one park to the next. As the culture is assimilated by Six Flags, it could go either way, but regardless the tone is set from the top.

What tone will you set, Mr. Burke?

Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - - Luau II Cam 7/19
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Friday, July 18, 2003 7:58 AM
Well said Jeff. The most significant thing that Cedar Fair has done in its acquisition of parks is that it has brought in some of its business practices while retaining the general atmosphere of each park. While Dorney, WoF and Knott's have added new rides and grown, you get the feeling that they are pretty much the same park.

That is also attributed to the fact that Cedar Fair makes slow, calculated decisions on the direction of each park.

Six Flags, in my opinion, has done neither. They try to go in and make a splash, throw money around, etc.

Cedar Fair examines the engine, makes repairs and moves forward. Six Flags throws a new coat of paint on the car and trys to sell you a new car. It doesn't work that way as has been proven time and again.

Friday, July 18, 2003 9:43 PM
While Burke is part of the problem i see the whole SF (Premier) corporate as horrendous. The system was flawed before SF was bought and is more so now that the company hasn't enough cash to go around. Sure they brought us great coasters, but at the expense of the parks they reside in.
Friday, July 18, 2003 11:09 PM
Yeah, I think Kieran Burke is not really all that particularly experienced in the theme park industry. Gary Story, however, is a different story. He started as a seasonal employee at SFSTL in the early 70's just like Dick Kinzel. He was general manager of a theme park in Sydney, Australia as well as in Mexico City. He ran Premier Parks for about ten years. His theme park experience is quite impressive and there is no denying that.
Saturday, July 19, 2003 1:51 AM
He might not have grown up in the industry like Dick Kinzel or Gary Story (who was responsible for not the current redevelopment, not the previous redevelopment, but the redevelopment before that, of Luna Park Sydney, in case you're wondering :)) but Kieran Burke has been with Premier Parks for around 15 years. I don't know, but when I first spoke to Dreamworld's CEO, who was appointed to the job only a year or so prior, he certainly sounded, from my perspective, like he knew the industry well enough (he was hardly "in the industry" before that - he worked for a large restaurant/hospitaliy). I'm guessing that Mr Burke knows a thing or two about the industry.

I'm not saying there aren't problems. I'm not saying that he's not responsible for some of them (and ultimately he is, because of the nature of his title). But though a lifetime in the industry says one thing; some fancy pieces of paper from an Ivy League school and over a decade in top positions in the industry also hold some degree of credibility.
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*** This post was edited by auscoasterman 7/19/2003 5:52:51 AM ***

Saturday, July 19, 2003 4:21 AM
Cedar Fair's CFO isn't exactly your Dick Kinzel either. He's an investor by origin, starting out at Arthur Andersen in Cleveland. In that sense, maybe finances are one thing that you don't neccessarily need industry insight to do your job well.
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Saturday, July 19, 2003 10:21 AM
If Burke's head was on the block it would have been last year when the stock cratered. Even with Friday's hit on soft attendance figures the stock is still where it was after last summer's meltdown.

It's all relative. Last year you saw Cedar Fair grow its attendance. You had other places like Holiday World's huge gains and even Islands of Adventure managed to grow its numbers.

The 4% attendance slide through June is bad but it's actually better than Cedar's 7% plunge. And, yes, Cedar was coming off high comps and Six Flags clearly was not, but the news that Six Flags attendance was up 1% over the past month will be enough to see the rest of the season through.

The troubling thing with Six Flags is the huge amount of debt that the company's been piling up and how the company's operating profits are falling dramatically so far this year. It wouldn't surprise anyone if the company tried to unload a park or two in the offseason -- no doubt an underperforming park on valuable real estate -- and just distribute those rides to the remaining parks to have "new" 2004 rides without having to spend a whole lot of money.

Saturday, July 19, 2003 5:45 PM
I'd doubt they'd liquidate a park. Sell one perhaps, but not piece by piece.

Please visit the small parks. We don't know what's happening behind the scenes

Saturday, July 19, 2003 8:24 PM
Kirby, I disagree. No company is in much of a position to buy a park right now, and Six Flags would have no interest in selling one of its four star parks and the others would fetch little to a fellow park operator.

But you've got some sweet real estate, in many cases right off major highways and in areas that have developed (either industrially or residentially) since Six Flags set up camp. Real estate developers would pay far more for that land than a rival park operator (and it would also mean less crow to eat) and, yes, those rides getting redistributed throughout the chain's other parks will enhance those locations without having to buy new rides (just the often costly bear of relocation).

Sunday, July 20, 2003 7:54 PM
BFSFA, I think you keep forgetting that the expansion plan for SFA wasn't suppose to happen overnight. If I read the article correctly, it's going to take at least 10 years to grow SFA. We're only at year five.
If you have a problem with clones, the solution is real simple—Stop traveling.
Monday, July 21, 2003 6:04 AM
Zero-G said:
Cedar Fair's CFO isn't exactly your Dick Kinzel either. He's an investor by origin

Which may or may not be why he'd be a Chief Financial Officer, no?


The CPlaya 100--6 days, 9 parks, 47 coasters, 2037 miles and a winner.....LoCoSuMo.

Monday, July 21, 2003 7:38 AM
Now something that hasn't been made too clear is that Burke is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Six Flags, which is equivalent to the President - in fact - Cedar Fair's CEO is also their President (Dick Kinzel).

And as CO duly noted above the CFO, in many corporations, have financial backgrounds, as Bruce Jackson (CF) and James F. Dannhauser (SF) do.

The one difference in CF and SF - in regards to their management structures -is that CF does not have a COO (Chief Operations Officer). SF does, and that role is filled by Gary Story. CF splits that role into two Corporate VPs, Rob Decker (Planning & Design) and Richard Collingwood (Administration). They also have other VP's but they tend to focus on various other elements or parks and are usually the GM of said facilities.

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---Currency tracking experiment... (Referring to The "George" on the $1 bill - Not Me)

Monday, July 21, 2003 11:44 AM
How about the publicity surrounding Two Face? then the publicity surrounding Raging Bull. Do you feel that could've hurt SF attendance? 4% down is better than Cedar Fair's 7% and Cedar Fair's only bad publicity was TTD going down for the count.
Monday, July 21, 2003 11:58 AM
C-guts -- no.

A random Mooshter's Dawntionary listing: Glibido - all talk and no action.

Monday, July 21, 2003 4:05 PM
While were talking about CEO's and such, I was wondering something that I really don't think needs a whole new thread. I saw 2 posts above about Rob Decker (planning and design). Does he come up with all the new ideas for the park? Or is it a comittee or just group of big wigs that have brainstorming-type sessions?

I'll add to the actual topic as well as to not look completley stupid.

Six Flags is becoming the American Nation. Gaining craploads of debt yet still sending money :)

Monday, July 21, 2003 5:24 PM
Decker is not a second in command type. Aside from the people with a "C" in their title, I'd say the next people in the chain are the various GM's at each park, with Dan Keller (CP/CP Resorts) and Jack Falfas (Knott's West Coast Operations) as the two most senior folks. Then I'd move to the VP's. It could be argued that the operations VP at CP (which is currently Bill Spehn) has more responsibility than most.

As best as I can tell from talking with various VP's long after they announce something, it would at least appear that it's very much a collaboration to decide in a broad sense what to do next. Anything new will have some impact on nearly every VP's area. Once they decide what to do, I'm guessing P&D gets the first part to figure out the what and where, maintenance and construction comes up with the implementation plan, marketing figures out how to sell it. The three likely spend a lot of time talking to each other on a weekly basis, if not more frequently.

Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - - Luau II Cam 7/19
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