Archive for June, 2011

Former Disney exec named president of Cedar Fair

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From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

Cedar Fair said Monday it has found a successor for Dick Kinzel, the longtime Cedar Fair CEO who made Cedar Point the roller coaster capital of the world.

The new leader is Matthew Ouimet, 53, a former executive for the Walt Disney Co. and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Ouimet began work Monday in Cedar Fair’s Sandusky office, in the back of the park, as the new president of Cedar Fair. When Kinzel, 70, retires on Jan. 3 as CEO, Ouimet will succeed him.

In an interview, Ouimet (pronounced “We MET”) said he plans to keep the company’s headquarters in Sandusky and will make sure Cedar Point remains the “crown jewel” of Cedar Fair’s family of amusement parks.

“I see no logic to moving out of Sandusky,” said Ouimet, who, along with his wife, will move to Ohio from Orange County, Calif.

Investors will get a look at Cedar Fair’s new leader when the company hosts its annual meeting at 9 a.m. July 7 at the Cedar Point Center at BGSU Firelands.

Ouimet spent 17 years with Disney, including handling the financial management of Disney’s parks and projects in California, Florida and France as the company’s senior vice president; running the Disney Vacation Club, and serving as president of the Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland Resort. More recently, he served as president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, overseeing 900 properties in 90 countries, and was president and CEO of Corinthian Colleges. Ouimet is also on the board of Collective Brands, which owns the Payless ShoeSource chain.

Disney emphasizes qualities such as service and cleanliness and has a culture similar to Cedar Fair’s, Ouimet said.

“I grew up in a culture that was all about quality,” Ouimet said.

He said his visits to Cedar Fair parks such as Knotts Berry Farm and meetings with Cedar Fair officials showed Cedar Fair has a similar focus.

“It is clear to me this team has extremely high standards,” Ouimet said.

He said he shares Cedar Fair’s philosophy of keeping its parks clean.

“I can’t walk through a park and leave anything on the ground,” he said.

C. Thomas Harvie, Cedar Fair’s chairman of the board, said Ouimet was the right man to lead Cedar Fair into the future.

Harvie cited Ouimet’s track record of finding growth opportunities and his background in resort development, finance, marketing and operations.

The board met other candidates who were well-qualified, Harvie said.

“The board agreed that Matt stood out from the rest due to his strategic business mindset and his natural and engaging leadership style,” Harvie said.

“Matt is an impressive business and operational executive whose character and values will be a great complement to the strong Cedar Fair culture,” Kinzel said.

The Q Investments family of companies, controlled by Texas investment banker Geoffrey Raynor, has warned it might oppose a new Cedar Fair CEO if it didn’t approve of the board’s choice.

On Monday, Q released a statement reserving judgment on Ouimet, but pushing Q’s position that unitholders should be allowed to nominate members of Cedar Fair’s board.

“We have no current comment on the hiring of Mr. Ouimet. However, regardless of whether the company hires Matt Ouimet or Warren Buffett, it does not change the fact that unitholders should have the right to nominate their own directors. We will continue to take every step necessary to ensure unitholders ultimately receive this right, which 95 percent of voting unitholders demanded at the last special meeting,” the Q statement said.

Cedar Fair names former Disney executive Matthew A. Ouimet president of the company

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Matthew A. Ouimet

Matthew A. Ouimet

  • Ouimet brings deep amusement park and resort industry experience and a rich understanding of financial, operational and brand management to this leadership role
  • Ouimet will succeed CEO Dick Kinzel on January 3, 2012, as part of Company’s CEO succession planning process

SANDUSKY, OHIO, June 20, 2011 – Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN) today announced that Matthew A. Ouimet has been named president of the Company, effective immediately. Ouimet, 53, will succeed Dick Kinzel, 70, as chief executive officer, who will retire upon the expiration of his contract on January 3, 2012. Today’s action is in line with Cedar Fair’s previously announced CEO succession planning process.

Ouimet is a 20 year veteran of the amusement park and hospitality industry, of which 17 years were spent with the Walt Disney Company (“Disney”). During his tenure with the global entertainment conglomerate, he had the opportunity to work in a wide range of business lines with increasing levels of responsibility. Highlights of his tenure at Disney include serving as:

  • Senior vice president, finance and business development, and chief financial officer of the Disney Development Company, in which he was responsible for the financial management of Disney’s resort, theme park and corporate real estate projects in California, Florida and France;
  • Executive general manager of Disney Vacation Club, where, through expanded marketing and sales initiatives, Disney established itself as a major competitor in the timeshare industry;
  • President of Disney Cruise Line, where his team built the most successful family cruise product in the industry;
  • President of the Disneyland Resort, where he and his team developed and implemented a comprehensive strategic plan that resulted in significantly improved and sustained performance for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary and beyond.

In 2006, Ouimet was recruited to serve as the President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, overseeing 900 owned, managed and franchised hotel properties in 95 countries. In this capacity, in support of brand-driven pricing premiums, he drove an operational focus on delivering a guest experience consistent with the characteristics of each of Starwood’s hotel brands, including St Regis, Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels and five other brands. In 2008, Ouimet joined Corinthian Colleges, a $2 billion, publicly-held, post-secondary education company which operates in the U.S. and Canada. As President and Chief Operating Officer, Ouimet championed executive talent development and the expansion of management and systems infrastructure to support rapid growth in the student population and expanded regulatory complexity.

“Without question, Matt is the right leader to join Cedar Fair now as it builds momentum on its renewed path of sustained, profitable growth in 2011 and beyond,” said C. Thomas (“Tom”) Harvie, independent chairman.  “Throughout his career, Matt has proven to be a critical thinker and effective business strategist with an enviable track record for identifying growth opportunities within existing businesses in the amusement park and resort industry. His broad and diverse background in resort development, finance, marketing and operations will allow him to integrate quickly into Cedar Fair.

“While our thorough search process with the assistance of the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International enabled us to meet with and consider many extremely qualified candidates, the Board agreed that Matt stood out from the rest due to his strategic business mindset and his natural and engaging leadership style,” said Harvie.

“Matt is an impressive business and operational executive whose character and values will be a great complement to the strong Cedar Fair culture,” said Dick Kinzel, chief executive officer. “I look forward to working with him over the coming months to ensure a seamless leadership transition.”

Ouimet currently serves on the Board of Collective Brands, Inc., a $3.4 billion global enterprise encompassing the internationally recognized footwear brands of Payless, Sperry Top-Sider, Stride Rite and Saucony, where he serves as a financial expert on the audit and finance committee. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in accounting from State University of New York at Binghamton.

“I am thrilled to join this successful Cedar Fair leadership team. I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with Dick Kinzel and to continue to build on his legacy in years to come,” said Matt Ouimet. “Cedar Fair is a wonderful company – its properties are vibrant and extremely well-run, its reputation is superb, and the record-setting 2010 performance has put us on a path to deliver the positive financial results Cedar Fair has long been known for. I am truly honored to have this opportunity and sincerely thank the Board for entrusting me with this critical leadership role at this pivotal point in Cedar Fair’s evolution.”

“On behalf of the Board, the management team and all of our colleagues past and present, I would like to thank Dick Kinzel for his unparalleled vision, passion and selfless dedication to Cedar Fair over the years,” said Harvie. “Without Dick, Cedar Fair would not have the opportunities or the growth potential it has today. He has been the heart and soul of this organization for many, many years and, while he can be succeeded, he can never be replaced. We wish Dick and his wonderful family all the very best as he moves into his well-deserved retirement at the end of the year.”

Kinzel began his career in the amusement park industry at Cedar Point in 1972. In 1986, he was named president and chief executive officer of Cedar Fair, L.P., the parent company of the parks, which was listed on The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: FUN) in 1987. Kinzel also served as chairman of the Board from 2003 to 2010.

 

Cedar Point Pays Tribute to America’s Heroes During Father’s Day Weekend

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Cedar Point Press Release

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Cedar Point will offer three-days of savings to members of the armed forces and public safety personnel for American Heroes Weekend during Father’s Day Weekend at the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park/resort.

From Friday through Sunday, June 17-19, public safety personnel and members of the armed forces (active, honorably discharged or retired members of the United States military) and their immediate family will be able to purchase one-day tickets to the park for only $34.99, a savings of $12 per ticket! (A valid ID is required.)

On Father’s Day, an all-you-can-eat picnic barbeque will be served from noon to 2 p.m. in the Coral Courtyard. The meal will consist of fried chicken, hot dogs, Johnsonville brats, potato salad, baked beans, baked rigatoni, cookies and ice cold Pepsi. Tickets can be purchased online at cedarpoint.com or at the park.

Cedar Point will also offer a special meal for the little ones. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day, guests will be able to enjoy the Breakfast Buffet with the PEANUTS Characters. With scrambled eggs and pancakes to fruit and yogurt, dining with Snoopy and the gang is fun for everyone. The buffet will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Midway Market on the park’s main midway. Tickets can be purchased online or at the park. Admission to Cedar Point is required.
With rides, roller coasters and live musical revues, Cedar Point is the perfect setting for a memorable Father’s Day. Earlier this week, the park’s new swing ride, the WindSeeker, opened for the summer. Standing 301-feet-tall, WindSeeker gives riders dramatic views of Cedar Point, Lake Erie, Sandusky Bay and the Cedar Point Beach.

Another special activity on Father’s Day will be the first Cedar Point 5K Challenge. The race will begin at 7 a.m. and will end by 8 a.m. An awards ceremony will be held afterward.

Race packet pickup will be held on Friday, June 17 (from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and on Saturday, June 18 (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) at Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay indoor waterpark resort on Cleveland Road in Sandusky.

For more information, visit cedarpoint.com or call the park’s General Information Line at 419.627.2350.

 

Cedar Point’s New WindSeeker Swing Ride Opens for the Summer!

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Cedar Point Press Release

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Cedar Point’s WindSeeker towering swing is now open!

The 301-foot-tall WindSeeker, the newest ride at the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park/resort, opened for the season yesterday, Tuesday, June 14.

It is receiving rave reviews. Riders are clapping and cheering as they descend the tower to the ground.

“It was awesome. It goes so high,” said Abbey Decker, an 11-year-old from Oak Harbor, Ohio. “I never knew Lake Erie was so big!”

Bordering the Cedar Point Beach, riders on the WindSeeker are treated to dramatic views of Cedar Point, Lake Erie and the Cedar Point Beach. On WindSeeker, riders sit in open two-passenger swings with their feet dangling in the breeze. The swings rotate around the 30-story center column as they slowly ascend the tower. At the top, riders are nearly face-to-face with the very top of the Power Tower and almost as high as the first hill of the Millennium Force roller coaster. (Guests must be at least 52 inches tall to ride WindSeeker.)

According to Cheryll McCarty, 40, from Bay Village, Ohio, “It is the best. The view was beautiful. I felt like I was on top of the world.”

With the opening of WindSeeker, Cedar Point now has 75 rides, including 17 roller coasters, more rides than any park in the world.

In addition to WindSeeker, the park has recently opened several new live shows for the season. This summer’s new offerings range from country favorites to classic rock and a gravity-defying stunt show with rollerbladers and skateboarders. An ice-skating show featuring Snoopy and the Gang opened over the weekend.

Earlier this month, American Portrait, Cedar Point’s new nighttime show, opened for the summer. Sponsored by the Marathon Petroleum Company LP, American Portrait features patriotic music, high-def images and colorful pyrotechnics that illuminate the evening sky.

To save money on a visit to Cedar Point, the park has a variety of money-saving deals that are available online at cedarpoint.com. Even more savings are available to guests who stay at one of the park’s resort properties. Resort guests also qualify for Early Entry and can enter the park one hour before it opens to the public.

For more information about WindSeeker and Cedar Point, please visit cedarpoint.com or call the park’s General Information Line at 419.627.2350.

 

WindSeeker Ribbon Cutting

Cedar Point’s WindSeeker takes flight

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From the Sandusky Register

WindSeeker Ribbon Cutting
SANDUSKY

Cedar Point finally launched WindSeeker, giving thrill seekers the ride 301 feet above Lake Erie they’ve been waiting for.

The first batch of riders rode up into the sky at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday.

Two season pass holders from the Toledo area were the first in line. Jordan Jacobsen, 21, and Sarah Pietras, 19, rode side by side in one of the 32 pairs of seats that swing around the ride’s tower.

“Exciting. Great view. Amazing view of this park,” Jacobsen said. “Pretty windy up there. Definitely if you’re seeking wind, you’re getting it. Not much of a thrill. Much more of a view. Still exciting.”

“It was amazing,” Pietras said.

It appeared to spectators below that as the riders neared the top, the seats swung farther out.

“The farther up you get, you go sideways more,” Pietras confirmed. “I was a little scared.”

Cedar Point had hoped to launch the ride on opening day, May 14. Bad weather delayed construction, and mechanical bugs that park officials didn’t discuss also slowed the launch.

“Start the season,” Cedar Fair president and CEO Dick Kinzel said after he and Cedar Point general manager John Hildebrandt cut a ribbon to officially open the ride, shortly after park employees rode it to give it a final test.

“Better late than never. We’re ready to go,” said Kinzel, who is retiring at the end of the year and who drew cheers when he spoke at the park’s Coastermania event earlier this month. “It’s been a long grind. We appreciate the patience the public has had with it.”

Pictures from the OnPoint! Cedar Point Blog

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