Cedar Fair wants to take you for the ride of your life. The firm owns and manages 11 amusement parks, six outdoor water parks, one indoor water park, and five hotels. Properties include Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California (outside of Los Angeles); Michigan's Adventure near Muskegon, Michigan; and Cedar Point, located on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. The company also has a contract to manage Gilroy Gardens in California. Knott's Berry Farm and Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark Resort (also in Sandusky) operate year-round, while other parks are open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, plus additional seasonal weekends. Cedar Fair parks together draw some 23 million visitors each year.
The company primarily earns revenues from admissions, food, merchandise, and games. Historically it was able to maintain a respectable share price, largely because its parks are the only ones in several markets. But after the downurn in the tourism market, Cedar Fair enacted a strategy of reinvesting in its parks, mainly by introducing new roller coasters. In addition, it boosted marketing efforts and lowered prices in order to increase season pass sales.
Such efforts helped raise attendance in 2011, and revenues and net income increased as a result. That year Cedar Fair reported net revenues of more than $1 billion, up about 5% from 2010, reflecting strong growth across its parks due to increased ticket sales and increased in-park guest spending. The company reported net income of $72.2 million in 2011, versus a net loss of $31.6 million in 2010, when it absorbed significant charges for asset write downs and the early extinguishment of debt.
For future growth, in 2012 Cedar Fair is investing about $90 million to improve its properties. A major expenditure is the addition of the 306-foot-tall, 92-mph, $27 million rollercoaster Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland in Toronto. The company is also spending $10 million to nearly double the size of its water park at Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio, rebranded Soak City. Other improvements include new attractions, rides, roller coasters, and upgrades at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Kings Dominion near Richmond, Virginia; Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
A failed acquisition attempt by Apollo Global Management put a damper on things in 2010. Apollo had planned to acquire Cedar Fair for about $635 million in cash, plus the assumption of about $1.7 billion of debt. However, Cedar Fair shareholder, Q Investments, stated that it was against the deal because Apollo's bid was too low. (Q Investments is an activist hedge fund founded by Texas investment banker Geoffrey Raynor that holds about a 13% stake in Cedar Fair.) The Apollo deal was eventually cancelled after not garnering enough shareholder support, and the company was forced to pay a $6.5 million breakup fee.
Cedar Fair had previously put itself up for sale in order to reduce its massive debt, which it accumulated during the $1.24 billion purchase of Paramount Parks from CBS Corp. in 2006. (That costly acquisition gave Cedar Fair another five parks in the US and Canada.) – less