Six Flags appoints Selim Bassoul as new CEO

Posted | 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.

Fun's avatar

The message making the rounds is that parks will be (almost) entirely responsible for their own operations, marketing, P&L, and capex.

Makes you wonder if they are trimming down in the hopes of selling.

bigboy said:

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.

While I don’t know their HR structure, I do know they have no leader as SIX just fired their CHRO. Does SIX now have a bunch of corporate HR generalists reporting into the CEO or CFO of a $1.5B company?

While I’m not sure history with SIX really matters as they don’t have a single board member that’s been with the company longer than 2 years, they did promote their CFO John Duffey a few years back.

Any well managed organization has a deep leadership bench and s succession plans. It appears SIX just eliminated the majority of their leadership. Park-level management for 9 months of the year is almost exclusively focused on operations. Who at the company is focused on innovation or strategic planning or creative development or talent development etc when all your leaders are also operating the parks 9 months/year? It isn’t the CEO since he has 20+ direct reports now.

it’s clear this new regime is implementing a Spirt Airlines approach (where the new Chairman came from) - which spells disaster for the already lacking guest experience / quality at SF.

Fun said:

The message making the rounds is that parks will be (almost) entirely responsible for their own operations, marketing, P&L, and capex.

Makes you wonder if they are trimming down in the hopes of selling.

That’s similar to what I’ve heard and lines up with what’s been reported about the Arlington and San Antonio. And that is a huge reversal from late last year when they cut a lot of longtime staff at the parks and moved things like purchasing and group sales to the corporate level.

Fun's avatar

Dennis Spiegel is reporting more details on who is leaving:

In addition to what he reported, numerous mid-level year-round positions at the individual parks were also eliminated. The fire department at Great Adventure among those layoffs:

Scott Ross and Selim Bassoul seem like they would get along well. Wonder who wins the race to the bottom?

Last edited by Fun,
Jeff's avatar

That many direct reports is a great recipe for failure.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

What a disaster. The CEO of a $1.5B publicly traded company is going to be directly overseeing food and beverage, merchandise and games, park operations, maintenance, engineering, entertainment.... and then have 15 park general managers, the CFO, the CIO, 3 attorneys, the VP of safety/security, VP of sales, VP of corporate sponsorships and VP of employee benefits all report directly to him? That's 24 direct reports - plus direct responsibility for the operations listed above.

How does the Board of a public company let that happen?

Jeff's avatar

I've had 10 directs and that's too many, and not even running company.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Fun's avatar

"Reporting to" is a relative term in this scenario. It's doubtful Bassoul actually wants each person checking in with him on everything, every day. Based on the email that went out, I don't get the impression he wants to micromanage.

It's going to take a while to unlearn decades of hand-cuffed decision making. The purported benefit of this change is that parks are going to make their own decisions, and check in periodically to report how things are going.

Could this actually work for Six? A flat organization like Phantasialand, Blackpool, Holiday World, or Knoebels would make you think it could, but it's certainly not an apples to apples comparison. But in every case where a major operator acquired a small family run park, it was done under the belief that corporate entity could run it better.

I am not talking about the CEO checking when one of the 24 employees reporting to him clocks in or out. I am referring to the talent development and employee coaching, mentoring, thought partnering that happens at successful organizations. You simply cannot do that with 24 direct reports, of any level (his reports now range from staff attorney to mid-level VP's to park GM's to C suite) - PLUS overseeing all operations - F&B, merchandise, engineering, entertainment, etc. etc.

I understand the philosophy of making decisions closer to the field vs in a detached corporate bubble - but it appears the new philosophy at SIX is to turn the company into Spirit Airlines 2.0 - which will have dramatically poor outcomes for both the employee and guest experience.

Jeff's avatar

You can't professionally develop 24 people. It's hard enough to do that for ten people and do the administrative execution work of a manager, let alone CEO.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

The SFOT park president that has been there for a little over the year and with the company for a couple of decades was unexpectedly shown the door last week. He confirmed it with a public post on his personal Facebook page. From everything I've heard, he was doing a lot to improve the park and was very well liked by his employees, all of whom are apparently pretty shell shocked.

Jeff's avatar

That's not a good sign. I'm not saying that someone well-liked can't do wrong, but it sets off a wave of distrust and concern around the entire company. It means that GM's now have to manage up, which is exhausting.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

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