- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said yesterday he has received backing from investors to take control of Six Flags Inc.

Mr. Snyder, through his investment firm Red Zone LLC, has received support from 57 percent of stockholders, putting him in control of the company if the consents are approved by independent auditors.

If approved, Mr. Snyder plans to remove Chief Executive Officer Kieran Burke, Chief Financial Officer James Dannhauser and Stanley Shuman from the board of directors. They would be replaced by Mr. Snyder, Mark Shapiro, a former executive vice president of ESPN Inc., and Dwight Schar, chairman of McLean homebuilder NVR Inc.

Mr. Snyder promises a “clean, safe and fun” brand name for the New York company, which owns 30 theme parks, including Six Flags America in Largo.

“With the holders of more than 57 percent of the outstanding common stock consenting to our proposals, stockholders have sent a clear message that it is time for change at Six Flags,” Mr. Snyder said yesterday.

Six Flags cautioned investors yesterday that nothing would be final until the independent inspector certifies the consent cards.

“Six Flags emphasizes that the delivery by Red Zone of consents, whether or not in sufficient amounts to approve Red Zone’s proposals, does not automatically give effect to any of Red Zone’s proposals,” it said.

Mr. Snyder and Red Zone have been engaged in a battle with the largest regional theme park company in the country for control of the board for almost a year. Mr. Snyder says the company’s management is not performing and that new leadership could increase shareholder value.

“The company’s stock has underperformed … over the last five years, and we firmly believe it is time for the board to pursue a new strategy to maximize stockholder value,” according to an August Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Six Flag’s stock fell 14 cents yesterday to close at $7.46 on the New York Stock Exchange. Six months ago, the stock was trading in the $4 range. The stock’s price jumped $1 to $6.49 in one day after Mr. Snyder’s announcement in August.

“The new management will be able to increase the profitability of the brand over time as opposed to trying to do a fire sale at a time when there is pressure,” Howard Alter, chairman of Alter Asset Management Inc., in Princeton, N.J., told Bloomberg News.

Mr. Alter owns 265,000 shares of Six Flags among $150 million in assets and voted for Mr Snyder’s purchase.

“The fact that they were able to get the vote is a clear sign from a lot of the investors that time was really up in terms of existing management,” Mr. Alter said.

Mr. Snyder said Six Flags has focused too exclusively on thrill rides for teenagers “at the expense of families and young children.” Red Zone would make the parks more family friendly by targeting mothers and young children in advertisements.

As Mr. Snyder has done at FedEx Field, the home of the Redskins, Red Zone also would offer exclusive food rights to vendors to sell their brands in the parks. Red Zone would seek sponsorships for credit card, cell phone and automated teller machine companies.

Mr. Snyder has been at odds with the management team before. In January, he threatened to sell his shares. In September, he asked for the management changes, but was denied.

Mr. Burke has said Mr. Snyder is trying to take control of the company without buying it outright. Six Flags is seeking an outright buyer.

“I am confident that we will have an attractive transaction to recommend to shareholders by the end of December,” Mr. Burke told investors earlier this month.

Red Zone said it would buy up to 34.9 percent of the company’s stock, to avoid taking on the company’s debts, for $6.50 each.

The consent statements now go to an independent inspector to be certified. Six Flags will then have an opportunity to contest them.

The theme park company announced yesterday that it still plans to move forward with selling the company to someone else “as expeditiously as possible.”

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