Major theme park merger to impact SA, New Braunfels

Six Flags’ alignment with Cedar Park is expected to boost new investment.

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and Cedar Fair have entered into a definitive merger agreement. (SIX FLAGS FIESTA TEXAS / CHRISTOPHER FARIAS | SCHLITTERBAHN)

SAN ANTONIO – Two well-established theme park brands will no longer compete for business, as Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and Cedar Fair have entered into a definitive merger agreement.

The transaction, one of the largest of its kind in decades, will result in a combined company valued at $8 billion and will impact parks in San Antonio and New Braunfels.

The new company will operate as Six Flags and will be based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Six Flags has had its headquarters in North Texas for years.

The combined company will operate a portfolio that includes 27 amusement parks, 15 water parks and nine resort properties across 17 states in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. That lineup of parks includes Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort in New Braunfels, a Cedar Fair property.

Industry veteran Dennis Speigel, founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services Inc., said based on calls he’s fielded from the investment community over the last few weeks, he suspected something was in the works.

“These two major companies creating a monolith,” Speigel said. “The benefits it brings are going to be enormous.”

While the company will take on the Six Flags (NYSE: SIX) name, it will be led by Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN) CEO Richard Zimmerman. Selim Bassoul, who has served as president and CEO of Six Flags, will move into a new role as executive chairman of the combined company’s board of directors.

“Our merger with Six Flags will bring together two of North America’s iconic amusement park companies to establish a highly diversified footprint and a more robust operating model,” Zimmerman said.

The merger, expected to close by the first half of 2024, could especially benefit Six Flags, which has had some struggles, according to Speigel.

“This is a fresh breath of air for them that was absolutely necessary,” he said.

Zimmerman expects the merger will allow for strong cash flow generation that accelerates park investments. San Antonio and New Braunfels could benefit from the merger and that increased investment.

“Since joining the Cedar Park family, Schlitterbahn has continued to make significant investments,” said Jonathan Packer, president and CEO of the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce. “We expect the Schlitterbahn brand to remain as strong as ever and look forward to future innovation and investment as a result of this merger.”

Those investments will go further now because of the merger, giving the new company greater buying power, according to Speigel.

“They’re going to have more leverage than they’ve ever had before,” he said. “They are, they are the dominant buyers of the equipment now in the industry.”

Read more about how the merger could affect the theme parks financially in the San Antonio Business Journal.

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.