Six Flags owns thrill-ride mecca Magic Mountain in Valencia and neighboring water park Hurricane Harbor. Those properties could be attractive to Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair, which owns Knott's Berry Farm and three Soak City water parks in Southern California, a person familiar with the company's thinking said.
The Valencia venues would be of interest to Cedar Fair because it would present marketing opportunities with its local water parks and Knott's, this person said. Cedar Fair would be unlikely to acquire all of the Six Flags properties because of the Oklahoma City company's debt load — more than $2 billion as of June 30.
Six Flags is also much larger, with 30 parks, compared with Cedar Fair's 12.
There is precedent for a limited acquisition. Last year, Cedar Fair paid $145 million for Six Flags of Ohio, located a few hours from Cedar Fair's flagship Cedar Point park in Sandusky.
With more properties in Southern California, Cedar Fair would be able to use media buys to advertise all the parks simultaneously, said Carl Winston, director of San Diego State University's Hospitality and Tourism Management Program.
"In the last five years Cedar Fair has gotten three local water parks — in Buena Park, San Dimas and San Diego," Winston noted. "Now they market them all on the radio as Knott's Soak City…. It's a lot more cost effective than a one-off park."
He also noted that Magic Mountain and Knott's both emphasize gravity-defying rides.
"It would make a lot of sense from Cedar Fair's point of view," he said. "It's a good cultural fit — they have experience in dealing with the young adult market."
Six Flags declined to discuss a possible sale of its Southern California properties.
At least two potential bidders emerged, however — Orange-based Vision Maker and Los Angeles investor Ron Bension. Last month, both lost out to Blackstone Group in bidding for four Legoland parks, including the one in Carlsbad, Calif.