Six Flags and Cedar Fair Merger Creates Largest U.S. Amusement Park Operator

Six Flags has completed an $8 billion merger with Cedar Fair. With 42 parks in 17 states, this partnership creates the largest amusement park operator in the U.S. Rollercoaster enthusiasts are watching closely to understand what the impact will be on the future of these parks. Some anticipate improvements in park conditions, while others fear increased admission costs.

Passionate fans, sensitive to changes in park design and history, worry about losing nostalgic elements. For now, the parks will retain their existing branding and names.

Chris Miller, who runs the Coaster Conquest YouTube channel, is cautiously optimistic, hoping for diverse new rides but concerned about potential price hikes for all-park season passes.

The new entity, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., will be led by Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman. Cedar Fair owns 51% of the company, while Six Flags holds 49%. The merger aims to compete with destination parks like Disney and Universal by leveraging their scale to reduce costs and enhance guest experiences.

Six Flags has faced challenges in recent years, including fluctuating management strategies and a significant stock drop. The merger is expected to provide stability and improved operations. Cedar Fair’s successful management and higher attendance rates offer hope for better service and overall park experience.

Analysts foresee potential benefits such as new season pass options, loyalty programs, and combined intellectual property licenses, potentially leading to exciting new themed rides and attractions. However, some fans worry about losing the distinctive charm of beloved parks.

Anu Saad’s Vision: Leveraging Cancer Data to Save Lives

This article was originally published on January 17, 2014.
Based on the Forbes article from May 29, 2000 entitled: “The Gift of Data”

As CEO of a cancer testing startup, Anu Saad has leveraged her company’s vast trove of patient data to launch a lucrative new business in packaging and selling medical information.

In 1998, Saad provided critical usage insights to Genentech on its new breast cancer drug Herceptin by analyzing her startup’s database of 40,000 HER2 gene test results. This allowed Genentech to effectively target pre-launch marketing, contributing to Herceptin’s blockbuster sales of $300 million in 2000.

Under Saad’s leadership, the startup realized rich opportunities in monetizing its cancer databases. With over 565,000 patient profiles and processing 12% of US cancer screens annually, Saad has signed partnerships with two dozen pharmaceutical firms who pay handsomely for analysis of biomarkers, genetics, treatment outcomes and more. For example, Novartis paid the startup to analyze bone metastasis rates across different cancer types to inform clinical expansion opportunities for its breast cancer drug Zometa.

To expand the startup’s data capabilities, Saad recently acquired two firms – one for clinic data and tumor samples and another for 1.7 million cancer patient records. By pooling these resources with the startup’s internal databases, Saad has developed detailed profiles on over 100,000 patients to better inform treatment and drug development.

While the lion’s share of the startup’s $85 million revenue still comes from core cancer testing services, Saad has overseen over 50% growth in its information services business, already generating $8 million annually. However, Saad stresses that commercialization of data is firmly grounded in achieving the fundamental mission she set out for her company – leveraging medical insights to develop more effective diagnosis and treatments for cancer patients. It is this commitment by visionary leaders like Saad that enables life sciences firms to translate vast data resources into improved patient outcomes. Under Saad’s leadership, her startup has emerged as an information powerhouse that promises to catalyze major advances in cancer care.

Grill Sales Cool as Americans Approach July 4th

As Americans approach July 4th, the grill market is experiencing a cooling trend following the pandemic-era buying surge. Market leaders like Traeger have reported significant declines in sales, with the company’s latest quarter grill sales dropping to $76.8 million from $156.1 million in Q2 2021.

Major retailers, including Home Depot, have noted a drop in the purchase of big-ticket outdoor items, including grills. Local stores are also feeling the impact.

The slowdown is attributed to several factors, including inflated meat prices, high interest rates, and economic uncertainty. Many consumers who purchased grills during the pandemic lockdowns see no need to upgrade their relatively recent acquisitions.

Despite the sales slump, grill ownership remains high. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reports that 80% of U.S. homeowners owned a grill or smoker in 2023, up from 64% in 2019.

Retailers are employing various strategies to reignite demand, including targeting first-time homeowners with affordable options and hosting cooking demonstrations. However, analysts note that creating demand in a slow-growth industry remains challenging.

While the grill market struggles, the tradition of outdoor cooking persists. The average cost of a Fourth of July cookout for 10 guests has risen to $71.22, up 5% from last year and 30% from 2019. Despite this increase, many Americans continue to uphold their grilling traditions, demonstrating the resilience of this summer pastime.

A Friends-Krispy Kreme Partnership

Krispy Kreme is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the sitcom “Friends” with a new range of themed doughnuts. Much to the disappointment of US fans, however, these treats are exclusively available in the UK and Ireland. This decision has sparked a wave of frustration on social media, with many expressing their annoyance and confusion.

The move underscores the impact of promotional items on brand visibility. Krispy Kreme’s CEO Josh Charlesworth highlighted in a recent earnings call that such innovations are key to keeping the brand fresh and exciting. He pointed out that special doughnut offerings have previously driven significant consumer traffic, citing examples like Valentine’s Day and eclipse-themed promotions.

Fans took to Instagram to voice their displeasure and ask that the doughnuts be made available in the United States.

The “Friends” doughnut range includes flavors like “Friends,” a chocolate glazed doughnut with the show’s iconic fountain image, and “Trifle,” a strawberry and custard-filled doughnut inspired by a memorable episode where Rachel attempys to make dessert. Other flavors include “How You Doin?” and “We were on a Coffee Break,” each referencing key moments from the show.

Krispy Kreme has previously launched US-exclusive collaborations, such as the Southern Sweets Doughnut Collection with Dolly Parton. When asked if the “Friends” doughnuts would be released in the US, a Krispy Kreme representative declined to comment, stating there was “nothing additional to share at this time.”

Sony Pictures Acquires Alamo Drafthouse, Expands into Theater Chain Ownership

Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind recent hits like “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” and “Anyone but You,” has acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the dine-in movie theater chain. Alamo will be integrated into a new division called Sony Pictures Experiences, and will continue to operate all 35 of its locations across 25 U.S. metro areas.

While major movie studios were previously prohibited from owning theaters due to the 1948 Supreme Court antitrust case, the Paramount Consent Decrees, which enforced this law, were abolished in 2020, allowing studios to enter the theater business once again.

Sony follows Netflix, which bought the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles and the Paris Theater in New York City, and Disney, which owns the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. However, Sony is the first major studio to acquire a theater chain.

Founded in 1997 in Austin, Texas, Alamo Drafthouse is known for its dine-in service, alcoholic beverages, and curated film programs. The theaters offer a mix of new releases and repertory titles, attracting large audiences. Despite its popularity, Alamo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2021 but emerged a few months later.

Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse, expressed excitement about the acquisition, stating that Sony’s respect for cinema aligns with Alamo’s vision. Michael Kustermann will remain CEO of Alamo and lead the new Sony Pictures Experiences unit. The headquarters will stay in Austin.

Sony has recently seen box office success with films like “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” and “The Garfield Movie”.