Kings Island owner rejects SeaWorld’s takeover bid

Kings Island is a 364-acre amusement park located 24 miles northeast of Cincinnati in Warren...
Kings Island is a 364-acre amusement park located 24 miles northeast of Cincinnati in Warren County. Owned and operated by Cedar Fair, the park first opened in 1972.(Kings Island)
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 8:10 PM EST
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SANDUSKY, Ohio (WXIX) - Cedar Fair, owner of Kings Island and Cedar Point, has officially turned down SeaWorld Entertainment’s purchase bid.

SeaWorld announced the news late Tuesday.

“In response to inquiries from various stakeholders, we confirm that our offer to acquire Cedar Fair was rejected. Unfortunately, we do not see a path to a transaction,” a company statement reads.

A Cedar Fair spokesperson declined to comment.

Cedar Fair is scheduled to announce its 2021 fourth-quarter and full-year financial results in pre-market hours Wednesday.

In addition to Kings Island and Cedar Point, Cedar Fair owns 10 other amusement parks, nine waterparks and fourteen hotels in North America. As of 2019, it employs 2,200 full-time employees and 45,100 seasonal workers.

The purchase bid sent the company’s stock soaring 13 percent to $57.55 when it was announced on Feb. 1. The price has since grown to $61.60.

A Cedar Fair company statement did not disclose the bid amount, but Bloomberg characterized it as a $3.4 billion cash offer, or $60 per share unit.

Jim Shull, retired executive director of Walt Disney Imagineering, commented on Twitter after the bid emerged, calling SeaWorld’s offer a “low ball” given the growth potential of the entertainment and theme park industry post-pandemic.

The move would have consolidated two of the theme park industry’s largest players—the others being Six Flags, Disney Park and Universal Parks and Resorts—amid renewed optimism about a return to normal attendance levels in 2022.

COVID-19 proved especially hard on Cedar Fair, whose share price nosedived to $16.28 in April 2020 as parks across the industry closed under statewide curfews.

Kings Island, for example, attracted just 1.62 million visitors in 2020, down 54 percent from 2019′s count of 3.59 million, per a global attractions attendance report.

Cedar Point attracted 1.02 million, down 72 percent from 2019′s count of 3.6 million.

Every major amusement park experienced the same. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World went from 20.9 million attendees to just shy of 7 million. Disneyland lost 80 percent of its traffic. SeaWorld lost 65 percent.

But by fall of last year, Cedar Fair’s park attendance had largely returned. Net admissions revenue from January-September 2021 was $480 million, up from just $60 million over the same months in 2020.

The company’s 2021 third-quarter guidance noted strong demand, record in-park per capita spending and a bright outlook in 2022.

Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard Zimmerman touted in that guidance the company’s “quick recovery from the COVID-19 disruption” underscoring the “resiliency of the business model.”

SeaWorld owns seven theme parks and five water parks. The company’s parks do feature rides including roller coasters, though it’s known primarily for its marine animal environments and shows featuring orcas, dolphins and sea lions.

Those same shows garnered negative attention following the death of an orca trainer in 2010 at SeaWorld Orlando.

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