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.