SANDUSKY, Ohio – Cedar Fair, the company that owns Cedar Point and Kings Island, is reviewing an unsolicited takeover bid from SeaWorld Entertainment, reportedly worth $3.4 billion.
The news comes two years and four months after Cedar Fair rejected a $4 billion offer from rival Six Flags as being too low.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Cedar Fair said it would review the proposal to determine the course of action “that it believes is in the best interest of the company and its unitholders.”
The news of the SeaWorld proposal, first reported by Bloomberg, caused Cedar Fair shares to spike Tuesday morning before trading was briefly halted. The stock price closed at $56.25, up 13.1%.
SeaWorld, based in Orlando, owns seven theme parks and five water parks in four states, including the SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place brands. Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, owns 11 amusement parks and five waterparks in the U.S. and Canada, including Cedar Point in Sandusky and Kings Island outside Cincinnati.
Dennis Speigel, founder of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati, said SeaWorld’s offer is likely too low.
“It doesn’t appear to me that their offer is even in the ballpark at this time,” he said. “This is a major chess game that’s underway. It could end with a deal being done or it could evaporate like the Six Flags overture went.”
He noted that SeaWorld is a company that has had a lot of turnover at the top, and has dealt for years with controversy surrounding its treatment of animals.
“They have a lot of issues they have to deal with, constantly,” he said. “But it all comes down to numbers, and stockholders. At the level they’re at now, I don’t see a deal happening.”
Cedar Fair was founded in 1983, after Cedar Point – the second oldest amusement park in the United States — acquired Valleyfair Amusement Park outside of Minneapolis. The company went public in 1987.
SeaWorld was founded in 1959 in San Diego and went public in 2013.
The two companies have an intertwined history in Northeast Ohio. SeaWorld Ohio, the company’s second marine zoological park, opened in 1970 in Aurora. In 2001, Six Flags bought SeaWorld and combined it with neighboring Six Flags Ohio (the former Geauga Lake). The two parks together became Six Flags World of Adventure.
In 2004, Six Flags sold Worlds of Adventure to rival Cedar Fair, which turned the SeaWorld side into Wildwater Kingdom waterpark. Eventually, Cedar Fair shut down both Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom, a move that still angers amusement park fans in Ohio.