Q says Cedar Fair considering Mark Shapiro for CEO, says it has no confidence in board to choose CEO

Posted Friday, April 22, 2011 11:51 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Cedar Fair LP's largest shareholder, Q Funding, said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it has no confidence in the board's ability to pick a successor for Chief Executive Dick Kinzel, who plans to retire this year. Q said in its filing with the SEC that it has received reports that the board has considered Mark Shapiro as a possible replacement for Mr. Kinzel.

Read more from The Toledo Blade.

Friday, April 22, 2011 11:54 PM

I find it ridiculous that they're making filings based on rumors, but their assessment of Shapiro is only partially true. Sure, the company went bankrupt on his watch, but I would argue that it would have happened sooner if it weren't for him. To his credit, they did get Six Flags to positive cash flow for the first time in its modern history. I don't entirely approve of everything he did (particularly the way he obliterated any trace of gate integrity), but I don't think it's fair to lay the bulk of the failure at his feet. The rise of Six Flags certainly isn't because of new management, it's because it no longer has the crushing debt it did before the bankruptcy.

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, April 23, 2011 12:25 AM
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Saturday, April 23, 2011 12:37 AM

...said in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has received reports that the board has considered Mark Shapiro as a possible replacement for Mr. Kinzel.

Excuse me for a moment while I change my pants.

...

...

Oh God, please please please please please please please please let this pan out.

(Still gay for Shapiro - in a business way)

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 8:46 AM

Heck if Q has no confidence in Shapiro then I have no confidence in Q. Get him in there now!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 12:05 PM

Q funding looses all credibility with this latest statement. Why wouldn't the board look at Mark Shapiro? He was the former CEO of one of the largest park chains. I think it's the boards responsibility to explore all of the possible options and look at every possible candidate if they want to get the right person for the job.

Jeff is right. Mark Shapiro isn't to blame for Six Flags bankruptcy. He wasn't dealt a pair of aces. Instead he got a 3 and 5 and managed to stay in the game a lot longer than many would've have expected. Six Flags bankruptcy was unavoidable.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 12:12 PM

Regardless of the financial situation (yes, I just said that - and I agree on the bankruptcy thing, I was one defending his big bonus in the face of bankruptcy), all I know is that when Shapiro was hired Six Flags parks generally sucked and when he left the company they generally no longer sucked.

If he could do that for Cedar Fair - which are slowly starting to suck more and more with each year - then that's a win. He's the perfect guy to take CF from Kinzel's stone age and into the 21st century.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:45 PM

Bankruptcy was the right thing to do in that case. Six Flags is in far better condition after Shapiro. I hope this is more than a rumor. And I'm officially on the Q is nuts bandwagon.

PS LOL at Screamscape thinking it's a bad idea. so is keeping the same tired and ugly layout for ten years.

Last edited by Tekwardo, Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:50 PM
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Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:48 PM

My big question is, would Shapiro want the position, or even be available. He just left one large amusement company (not sure if he was forced out or resigned himself) so would he really want to go right into another one. Even if said company could really use his help!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 2:30 PM

What specifically did Shapiro do that you guys liked? Adding fired to everything? Music to coasters? Ads on trains?

What was his track record on reinvestment (not that he had much funding to work with)?

There are plenty of fish out there. They should keep looking IMO.

Or we can look forward to Bizarro Millennium Force, now with fire and bitchin' cardboard cut outs.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 2:36 PM

jive2 said:
What specifically did Shapiro do that you guys liked?

Cleaned up the parks. Got them running more efficiently. Employee attitudes changed. Took guest satisfaction to an all time high.

You know, little things like that. :)

I don't give a crap whether a ride has fire or music or whatever. I do care that the park is an enjoyable place to spend my time and money.

Before Shapiro, SF parks were anything but enjoyable. After Shapiro, I find myself preferring to spend my time and money at SF parks over CF parks if given the choice.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 2:36 PM

Six Flags became a successful company with positive cash flow with his fire and cardboard cutouts. He didn't add the biggest and best every year because the company had little cash to work with. And customers were happier than ever. When did Shapior pee in your cornflakes?

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 2:55 PM

Among many problems Six Flags had before Shapiro was that they were taking their customer base for granted. He shifted the focus to provide a positive park experience rather than just build a new ride and they will come. Taking customers for granted seems to be one of Cedar Fair's major problems right now. Especially the comment from Dick awhile back about the food and people will eat whatever crap we want to sell them. Shapiro's got a proven track record for fixing these problems. Seems like a natural fit to have Shapiro in there but at this point any change would probably be a good thing.

This is a very weird bizarro world were Six Flags is potentially a model of success that could be applied to fix a messed up Cedar Fair. Not too long ago it was a flip flop.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 4:08 PM

Mr. Shapiro may pose a problem for Q Investments primarily due to his difficult divorce from Six Flags. The presence of Shapiro would likely restrict or eliminate the flexibility to combine parts or all of Cedar Fair properties with Six Flags assets.

Six Flags only had two profitable quarters in its long history--both of which occurred under the leadership of Shapiro. As other commentators have mentioned Shapiro worked several miracles at SF; improved guest relations, significantly improved food and beverage operations, much improved sponsorship/licensing revenues, merchandise improvements and generally cleaned up parks.

The deteriorating economy simply made the debt load to large a burden for SF to continue caring. This debt was accumulated by previous SF management. Shapiro reduced capital spending while still adding rides and attractions--by placing the same ride in multiple parks. Cedar Fair has now torn this page from the Shapiro playbook by installing WindSeeker at several locations. These signature rides are also much cheaper than coasters.

Cedar Fair continues to rely upon the same-old same-old for driving attendance and revenues at parks. Kinzel has repudiated, in recent SEC filings, the successful strategy of other operators in driving revenues with licensed intellectual properties (see Universal's record increases due to Harry Potter addition).

Shapiro has radically different views of revenues than Mr. Kinzel. Cedar Fair needs fresh blood. Shapiro may or may not be the right fit for Q Investments. But he would be a good fit for Cedar Fair Unitholders.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 4:19 PM

He didn't pee in my cornflakes. I just think that a better option might be available out there. Earlier a lot of people thought that Q was the greatest thing to happen to CF. Now the crazy is really starting to shine through.

Is there not someone from the Herscend management tree, a former Busch Park exec or even a Disney exec that might be a better fit? There are ton of other entertainment industries that CF could target in addition to theme parks. Didn't Shapiro come from ESPN?

I believe that Shapiro's insight would make him a better board member than CEO.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 4:24 PM

I don't think anyone is saying there isn't anyone else who can do it or would be a good fit. Just that Shapiro isn't a bad choice.

Are there better choices? Arguably. Worse choices? Definitely.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 4:54 PM

jive2 said:
I believe that Shapiro's insight would make him a better board member than CEO.

Amen to that!

While the fight for a new CEO is interesting, what should be even more surprising is the house-cleaning that will take place once this person is seated and starts building a new mgmt team loyal to his/her vision for Cedar Fair. I suspect Carowinds will be up for a new GM right off the bat.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 6:19 PM

If Bart gOez I would like to see Jerry get his spot.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 6:38 PM

I have no problem with Shapiro becoming the CEO...as long as he doesn't mess with the gate integrity and a great season pass pricing setup (just get all the gates on the same page and technology!).

Q is really starting to get crazy. Just as bad as Kinzel, only as a shareholder version.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 7:43 PM

Assuming it's true that CF is looking at Shapiro, I like the idea that they are at least looking at the possibility of getting someone outside the CF family.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011 10:49 PM

Leland Wykoff said:
Mr. Shapiro may pose a problem for Q Investments primarily due to his difficult divorce from Six Flags. The presence of Shapiro would likely restrict or eliminate the flexibility to combine parts or all of Cedar Fair properties with Six Flags assets.

Do you enjoy just making up random crap as part of your Cedar Fair stalking hobby?

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