Six Flags appoints Selim Bassoul as new CEO

Posted Monday, November 15, 2021 10:10 AM | Contributed by Jeff

From the press release:

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (NYSE: SIX), the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, today announced that Selim Bassoul, formerly the Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer and President of Six Flags. Effective immediately, Mr. Bassoul will replace Michael Spanos, who has stepped down after two years of service, as CEO, President and a member of the Board. Mr. Bassoul will continue to serve as a member of the Board, and Ben Baldanza, an independent director of Six Flags, and former CEO of Spirit Airlines, has been elected as the new Non-Executive Chairman of the Board.

“We are thrilled that Selim has agreed to help lead Six Flags into a new era of growth. His long and exceptional track record as a public company CEO, his experience, entrepreneurial spirit, and inspiring personality make Selim the perfect CEO for Six Flags at this moment in time. We are particularly excited about his proven ability to motivate teams, to delight customers, and to drive financial performance,” said Ben Baldanza, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board. “In addition, the Board would like to thank Mike Spanos for his tireless efforts as he successfully shepherded Six Flags through an exceptionally challenging time through the COVID crisis, including the safe reopening of all our parks. As we indicated on our earnings call on October 27th, our fourth quarter attendance trends have accelerated compared to the third quarter, and we look forward to building on that momentum into 2022 and beyond.”

“I am honored to serve as the next CEO of Six Flags, and I am excited to bring the magic back to our parks. We are a company led by a purpose–to make a positive and meaningful impact on everyone Six Flags touches,” said Selim Bassoul. “I will do my best to enable our people to fulfill their passion to make a difference, and to harness their creativity to build on a shared vision for guest satisfaction and financial growth. I am passionate about empowering employees and serving our customers, and together with our team, I know we can set up Six Flags for a new level of success in the months and years ahead.”

About Selim Bassoul

Bassoul, 64, is the former President, CEO, and Chairman of Middleby Corporation. During Mr. Bassoul’s tenure, Middleby became the leading global manufacturer of industrial and high-end residential appliances, growing revenue from $100 million to $2.7 billion, Adjusted Operating Income from $12 million to $535 million, and market capitalization from $100 million to more than $6 billion. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration from the American University of Beirut, and an M.B.A. in Finance and Marketing from the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.

About Ben Baldanza

Baldanza, 59, is currently CEO of Diemacher LLC, an advisory firm helping businesses restructure, grow revenue, and reduce costs. He is the former CEO, President, and Director of Spirit Airlines, an ultra-low cost carrier. Under his leadership from 2006 to 2016, Spirit Airlines grew its revenue from $500 million to $2.1 billion, and transformed from an unprofitable business to the highest margin airline in the US. Prior to joining Spirit Airlines, Baldanza held positions of increasing responsibility in finance, marketing, and revenue management. He currently serves as a director of JetBlue Airways Corporation, and previously served on the boards of Frontier Airlines, Inc. and Spirit Airlines, Inc. He holds a B.A. from Syracuse University and an M.P.A. from Princeton University.

Read the entire press release from Six Flags.

Thursday, December 2, 2021 7:42 AM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

Think Raptor is bad? What happens on Gemini is much worse. Most times they can't run two trains on each side without setting up.

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Thursday, December 2, 2021 8:56 AM

Yeah. Gemini and Blue Streak are both tied for "what the heck happened?" compared to what those two rides were/are capable of delivering in terms of capacity.

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Thursday, December 2, 2021 10:04 AM
eightdotthree's avatar

Tekwardo said:

Especially when I go to parks like SDC and Dollywood and the food is good, op’s are great, parks look amazing, rides are top notch. And most of the complaints from the previous three are pre-covid.

I had the weirdest cross section of parks last week. I went to Dollywood, Six Flags Over Georgia, and Carrowinds. I had the most fun at Six Flags and the least fun at Dollywood.

Dollywood was oversold, the Christmas decorations were fine, and the coaster operations (for the two I managed to get on) were average. Security was a complete disaster. I don't think I ever need to ride the train again. It's neat that it exists but there's nothing to see and it takes too long. I like Dollywood but this wasn't the best experience. No heat lamps or fire pits?

Six Flags surprised me. The park was really nice, the Xmas stuff was interesting (smores over real fires was a highlight), and the coaster operations were solid. The tree canopy (charm!) and 5 rides on Goliath were also highlights. Their entrance needs to be redesigned to take into account new security procedures but it was at least efficient.

Carrowinds' new entrance is stunning and the Xmas decorations were the best out of the three parks. They had street performers out everywhere and the parade was fun. Copperhead Strike's operations were very good. Got 4 rides on it.

BrettV said:

Yeah. Gemini and Blue Streak are both tied for "what the heck happened?"

Blue Streak is pretty obvious to me. Loose articles, PTC trains, confirming seat belts first... Gemini I have no idea what they're up to there. Raptor is confusing as well. I'd like something in between screaming at me to sit the **** down as soon as the gates open and what they're doing now.

Last edited by eightdotthree, Sunday, December 5, 2021 8:07 AM
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Thursday, December 2, 2021 10:10 AM

BrettV said:

Yeah. Gemini and Blue Streak are both tied for "what the heck happened?" compared to what those two rides were/are capable of delivering in terms of capacity.

IIRC, both of these changed significantly (and slowed down) when they went to full-automated control. But, that’s dim memory speaking.


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Thursday, December 2, 2021 4:10 PM

Did they finally remove the manual train parking on Gemini? Last I recall from maybe a few years ago it was still the last remaining manual station controls.

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Friday, December 3, 2021 8:56 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Jeff said:

Have you seen what they're doing at Fiesta Texas? Not just the new dive coaster, but the new front gate and exactly the kind of general renovation mentioned above.

Jeff tends to get what he wants. That’s by far one of the best ran parks in the chain/this country.


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Friday, December 3, 2021 8:58 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Tekwardo said:

Yeah. Gemini and Blue Streak are both tied for "what the heck happened?"

Blue Streak is pretty obvious to me. Loose articles, PTC trains, confirming seat belts first... Gemini I have no idea what they're up to there. Raptor is confusing as well. I'd like something in between screaming at me to sit the **** down as soon as the gates open and what they're doing now.

I didn’t say that. STOP PUTTING WORDS IN MAH MOUF!!!

;-P


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Friday, December 3, 2021 9:42 PM
Jeff's avatar

Tekwardo said:

Jeff tends to get what he wants. That’s by far one of the best ran parks in the chain/this country.

Indeed. I consider him a friend, but honestly I hope his long term trajectory is executive leadership. He gets it. He's really one of the best in the industry.


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

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Friday, December 3, 2021 10:41 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

I wish he would ascend to COO quickly and CEO eventually.


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Sunday, December 5, 2021 8:08 AM
eightdotthree's avatar

STOP PUTTING WORDS IN MAH MOUF!!!

Ha ha. Whoops. Fixed it.


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Monday, December 6, 2021 8:41 AM

The newish president at SFOT is doing a lot of work to improve the park and I don't think it's a coincidence that he previously worked for Jeff at Fiesta Texas. One thing I heard about Six Flags following the late-90's Premier purchase and post-bankruptcy was that management bonus potential was closely tied to saving labor and operating expenses. That gave them an incentive to let the parks fall apart and languish with bare minimum staffing. It's starting to look like they're moving away from that.


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Wednesday, December 8, 2021 8:17 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

That’s good to hear. Anyone that goes to management after training under Jeff is going to be an improvement.

Dude is seriously just super nice. He made sure we got the first non public ride of the day on Rattler opening year, and the first public ride. And was super excited our group was there and that eh got to hang that morning.

I don’t typically gush over park presidents and above, but he’s infectious.


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021 12:38 PM
Fun's avatar

It appears that the first move the new CEO has made is to gut the corporate team. The team listed here was twice as big under Spanos:

https://investors.sixflags.com/corporate-governance/leadership

In some respects it is a shame that many talented individuals are seemingly no longer with the company. On the other hand, it does appear that Bassoul intends for parks to mange more autonomously, which frankly I don't think is a bad thing. The shared services model evidently did not produce the intended results and perhaps that is what lead to Spano's departure.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021 1:43 PM
Jeff's avatar

It seems weird to ditch the in house counsel. That company is more than big enough to need one.


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

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 8:16 PM

I am not sure how you run a $1.5 billion company with the CEO having 20+ direct reports (all park presidents are reporting to him plus CFO, etc.) SIX has eliminated practically every corporate position other than their CFO and CIO. Difficult to "manage by committee" a $1.5 billion company with 15 different directors/VP's in the various groups they just eliminated any corporate leadership/strategy - including operations, F&B, merchandise, engineering, human resources, entertainment, marketing. Heck, even Kinzel realized after the acquisition, he needed some corporate level leadership for strategy, development, innovation, etc. that weren't bogged down with the day to day ops.

Will be interesting how this plays out. SF is taking a strikingly different path than CF - who seems to be building a suffocating corporate apparateus in Charlotte. Ouimet breathed new life into park-level management by allowing GM's to run the parks; from outside it appears Zimmerman/Fisher are over-correcting for Kinzel micro-managing from Sandusky by micro-managing from Charlotte but with now with a corporate staff about 150x larger.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 9:42 PM
Jeff's avatar

That's a really good point. In my experience, I've been able to manage up to 12 direct reports, but those were IC's. Managing even six managers directly is very challenging, and I found that difficult.


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

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 10:00 PM

I heard that this week has been a bloodbath at their corporate HQ with more than 80 people being shown the door. All of the corporate VP positions except the ones listed in the link above were eliminated.

Last edited by bigboy, Wednesday, December 15, 2021 10:01 PM

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 10:20 PM

From a very practical matter, who even executed the elimination of their entire corporate office employees (finance, IT and sales were only groups seemingly spared). They don’t have a CHRO anymore or any corporate HR staff, or a General Counsel or legal staff.

Who actually managed the terminations - and for the VP level folks, the exit packages, etc? The new CEO himself and board members? This appears to be a page right out of SEAS/Scott Ross. Bigger question - who is calling the shots at SIX. Their most tenured board member started in Jan 2020. Which is staggering. They don’t have a single board member on from pre-pandemic era OR when Spanos was hired in 2019. Their current CEO is 64 and just canned every possible successor. What’s SIX 3 year plan - promote a park GM to CEO of a $1.5B public company?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 10:48 PM

Where are you getting that they have no corporate HR staff?

And while I get what you're saying about succession planning, have they ever promoted a CEO from within? Not in the last 30 years as far as I'm aware.

Last edited by bigboy, Wednesday, December 15, 2021 10:54 PM

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021 11:06 PM
Jeff's avatar

If any of that is real, that's cosmically stupid. I get concerns about corporate bloat, but from a scalability perspective, you need bodies to do the work. This is not an immature organization at this point. I suspect that most corporate positions made sense.


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

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