Shapiro out as Six Flags CEO, former Paramount Parks takes interim position

Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:47 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation today announced that Alexander "Al" Weber, Jr., former President and CEO of Paramount Parks, Inc., has been named President and Interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. The Company is retaining a leading executive search firm and will consider both internal and external candidates to serve as Chief Executive Officer on a permanent basis.

Read the entire press release on Marketwatch.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:35 PM

Errrf...! I look at Paramount parks pre Cedar Fair purchase and I can't help but think SF may regress to its old ways. Wouldn't it make sense to get someone fresh, and someone not indoctrinated with the same ol' same ol', business as usual.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:28 PM

I'm not sure that's entirely fair. Paramount Parks were kind of a mixed bag, and even then not always "bad" parks just because they weren't building what enthusiasts would like to have seen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:09 AM

delan, why do you feel SF may regress? The guy running SF now ran Paramount Parks, a company that was doing well, adding attractions, and decent growth in attendance and per cap spending, wasn't anywhere near bankruptcy, were clean, and had friendly employees. Paramount didn't sell the company because it wasn't profitable, they sold to get rid of non-core assets, and many people feel that the former Paramount Parks were sold in very good shape.

Other than the fact that a couple parks didn't add a brand new coaster for quite a while, and even had rides removed, the chain as a whole was very well run, so I really don't see why you'd think Al would turn SF back to where they came from. He didn't leave his last company in bad shape, why would he turn this one around and run it into the ground?

Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:11 AM

I think this is a good move...the Paramount parks IMO were run very well and with their former CEO now in charge of Six Flags, things can only get better. I also viewed Shapiro as a transitional CEO in charge of getting the company back on track. Now that Six Flags is on the right track, it's time to hand over the chain to a CEO who has experience in running theme parks.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:03 AM

The one thing I could never figure out about the former Paramount Parks is why they never added hypers. SoB being the one exception and that's not something to be proud of.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:32 AM

Jeff said:
I'm not sure that's entirely fair. Paramount Parks were kind of a mixed bag, and even then not always "bad" parks just because they weren't building what enthusiasts would like to have seen.

I used to work for Al when he was in charge of Great America California. He was OK as a manager, but I'm pretty sure he was behind the castration of the Grizzly. But at least you'd see him with his family in the parks. Man, those kids I saw him wheeling around in strollers must be all out of college by now!

Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:06 PM

I am inclined to think this is a good move for Six Flags. I am not sure if I can explain this adequately or not, but here goes...

Shapiro deserves a lot of credit for rescuing Six Flags. Of that there is no doubt.

My question, though, is whether Shapiro *understands* the amusement business as deeply as Weber does, if he really "gets" what makes customers really happy to come to the park and hand over their cash. He's figured out how to get them to hand over their cash, and he's done a lot with cross promotion and that sort of thing. But I don't know if he really "gets" how to make people really enjoy themselves. Weber, I have reason to believe, "gets it" and we saw that in the operation of the Paramount parks; in fact it was clear to me when he was the GM at Kings Island. It's harder to quantify on a spreadsheet, and there is a lot more to it than the raw numbers. But now that Six Flags is on a more sustainable financial footing, it's time for them to start thinking harder about that more nebulous side, where an amusement park differentiates itself from other forms of entertainment.

Am I making some kind of sense here? 'Cause it doesn't feel like it... :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 1:17 PM

I think Shapiro was fresh because he was doing different things. Changing the way we visit a park (however small those ways may have been). It's time for the idea of what an amusement park is to evolve a little bit. You need an outsider to make that happen. Shapiro tried things (some successful, some not) that other parks/chains never even considered.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:23 PM

I see where Dave is going, and largely agree with him, but I also think that Shapiro was a good enough manager that he'd get the right people who "get it" in the right places.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:48 PM

See, I think Shapiro was successful and exciting because he didn't necessary "get it" - people who "get it" tend to do things in the way they "get" them. (quote useage overload)

Not that that approach doesn't work. If you're good at running parks, you're good at running parks.

But I liked to think the goal wasn't just to get SF back on course and continue to coast along with everyone else. I though they were in a situation with little left to lose and were really going to go for it. I'd still like to see someone who shifts what the amusement park experience means and is. I think Shapiro was doing that to some degree - both out of desperation and because he had no intimate knowledge of "how it's done" in the industry.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 3:32 PM

Shapiro took my joy away from six flags the minute he decided to go family friendly and invest less in coasters... was it better for the company? maybe... but he will be my thrill-nazi and scapegoat!

Thursday, May 13, 2010 3:57 PM

But Shapiro Learned from the whole "Focus on Families" attitude he came with. We all bemoaned comments he made thinking we'd not see another good coaster come to a SF Park, and we've seen 2 good Wooden coasters come to parks that needed them. He put 3 very well themed wild mouse coasters in. And then there were those 2 spinny coasters that enthusiasts seem to like.

There is no 'maybe' that what he did was better for the company, and what the company needed. If he hadn't made the chain stop hemorraging cash, then it's quite possible that there would be no future major coasters.

I think Shapiro was what they needed, and I get what both Gonch and Dave are saying. I hate that he left, but I'm glad the company is currently in competent hands. And remember folks, we don't know who will end up running the company full time. It could go either way.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:17 AM

I guess there's just something about this that bothers me still. I completely agree that it's not shocking to understand that Shapiro could be moving on given his primary goal may have been to lead SF through this process which he did extremely well.

But I don't understand why they needed to negotiate the bankruptcy plan if Shapiro was going to leave anyway. Didn't we determine that in the end the junior bondholders pretty much received the plan they wanted all along and the only difference was that management was going to be able to stay on? And when the bankruptcy finalization was announced, it was said that Shapiro had just signed another four year contract.

And yet within two weeks we find that Snyder and Shapiro are both leaving. Shapiro is leaving effective immediately apparently without notice or transitional plan, too. That seems off to me. Though, I don't pretend to know how these things normally work.

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:07 PM

Perhaps he has an offer elsewhere. Despite the bankruptcy, I'd still consider his tenure a pretty serious success, if for no other reason he got them to a positive cash flow.


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