- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Shares of Six Flags Inc. shot up nearly 25 percent yesterday after it was revealed that Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder bought an 8.8 percent stake in the struggling theme park operator.

News of Mr. Snyder’s interest in the Oklahoma City company marked a glimmer of hope after a string of disappointing earnings reports brought on by declining park attendance. It was followed by news that Microsoft founder and Six Flags shareholder Bill Gates is pressuring the company to reverse its financial losses.

Six Flags, which operates 31 parks in North America and Europe, including Six Flags America in Largo, closed at $5.57 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, up from $4.48 on Monday.

Mr. Snyder, who paid more than $34 million for 8.15 million Six Flags shares, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that he believes the company is undervalued.

He is expected to try and influence Six Flags management to improve operations and position the company to be bought or merged.

Attendance for all parks dipped to 12.8 million from 13.3 million in the first half of 2003. It does not release attendance figures for individual parks.

The company reported a second quarter net loss of $6.8 million (13 cents per share) compared with a loss of $12.3 million (19 cents) during the comparable quarter of 2003.

Revenue fell to $356.2 million from $361.4 million during the same period.

Analysts said Six Flags needs an injection of capital to build new rides, or else attendance will continue to decline.

Analysts said there does not appear to be a buyer willing to take on the whole company at this point, but that some portions could be sold off.

“We aren’t highly familiar with Mr. Snyder’s track record, but we view the move positively as it increases the likelihood that sales of underperforming assets will be made by the company,” said Kit Spring, an analyst with Sitfel, Nicolaus and Co., a St. Louis brokerage firm. Mr. Spring does not own shares of Six Flags.

Six Flags in April sold seven of its parks in Europe and its World of Adventure park in Cleveland.

Mr. Gates bought more than $170 million in Six Flags stock in September of 2002, and now owns about 10.8 million shares, giving him an 11.5 percent stake in the company.

According to an SEC filing on Aug. 27, however, Mr. Gates has become “increasingly dissatisfied with the financial performance” of Six Flags, and has inquired about gaining more control of the company’s operations.

Six Flags spokesman Debbie Nauser said the company did not have any immediate comment on Mr. Snyder or Mr. Gates’ filings.

Mr. Snyder bought the Redskins and the team’s stadium, FedEx Field, for $800 million in 1999.

He sold his marketing company, Snyder Communications, to the French company Havas SA for $2 billion in 2000.


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