Six Flags and Cedar Fair have officially announced a merger of the two companies in a deal which will cement a single company’s control of regional theme parks across the U.S. 

The confirmation of the combined company, valued at $8 billion, comes just a day after talks were first reported by Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. 

Cedar Fair shareholders will own 51.2 percent of the combined company. It will keep the Six Flags name and Cedar Fair’s stock listing (FUN).  

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2024. Cedar Fair president and CEO Richard Zimmerman will remain as CEO of the new Six Flags.

 “Our merger with Six Flags will bring together two of North America’s iconic amusement park companies to establish a highly diversified footprint and a more robust operating model to enhance park offerings and performance,” Zimmerman said in the press release. 

His Six Flags counterpart, Selim Bassoul, will become executive chairman of the combined board of directors, whose 12 members will be evenly split between members from the two companies. 

“Six Flags and Cedar Fair share a strong cultural alignment, operating philosophy, and steadfast commitment to providing consumers with thrilling experiences,” Bassoul said in the press release. “By combining our operational models and technology platforms, we expect to accelerate our transformation activities and unlock new potential for our parks.”

The company’s headquarters is planned to be located in Charlotte, North Carolina, leaving behind Six Flags’ home of Arlington, Texas, and Cedar Fair’s base in Sandusky, Ohio, though their joint press release says the combined entity “will maintain significant finance and administrative operations in Sandusky.”

Cedar Point, Cedar Fair’s flagship park in Sandusky, Ohio (Theme Park Tribune)

All the existing intellectual property rights will be transferred to the new company, so Looney Tunes, DC Comics and Peanuts characters will remain in their existing parks. 

The merger cited purported benefits for the deal that include “$200 million in cost synergies” and appeared to head off potential antitrust action by saying the two existing companies have “minimal market overlap.” 

Out of Six Flags and Cedar Fair’s combined 27 amusement parks, only their California parks compete in the same regional market. The Cedar Fair-owned Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain are located about 60 miles away in the crowded Southern California market that also includes Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland. In Northern California, about 67 miles separates Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and California’s Great America in Santa Clara (which is on borrowed time).  

Still, the combined company would be the largest regional theme park entity in the world, and dwarf its nearest U.S. competitors, SeaWorld and Herschend Family Entertainment. 

“It would give them complete dominance in the regional theme park market,” Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer Wednesday. 

For theme park guests, the first immediate change may be felt in season pass perks. The press release said, “The combined company will also offer expanded park access to season pass holders along with an enhanced, combined loyalty program featuring additional perks,” without offering a timeline of when that expanded access may be implemented.