Mark Shapiro Named New CEO of Six Flags

Wednesday, December 14th 2005, 8:49 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former ESPN programming director Mark Shapiro is the new president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based theme-park giant Six Flags Inc., the company announced on Tuesday.

At a board meeting in New York, Six Flags directors voted to replace longtime CEO Kieran Burke with Shapiro and decided not to sell the company, Shapiro said in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press.

``The sale process has concluded,'' Shapiro said. ``The board didn't see any bid that was attractive enough to proceed in that direction.''

Shapiro said the board also voted to expand from seven to 10 members, adding former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp and Michael Kassan, an entertainment and media consultant.

``We're going to unleash a new creative energy from this company and we're going to make Six Flags a destination instead of a field trip,'' Shapiro said.

Shares of Six Flags fell 10 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $7.15 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The installment of Shapiro as the company's president marks the end of a contentious proxy battle that started in August when Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who owns about 11.7 percent of the company's stock, launched his bid to take over the company.

Six Flags responded by putting itself up for sale at auction.

Shapiro said his first order of business is to visit each of the company's nearly 30 theme parks over the next month, evaluate the current management structure and ``light a fire under this company.''

He said a top priority of the new management team will be to target young children and families and not just thrill-seeking teenagers.

``It's become a company that has targeted teenagers as its core audience ... but it's been done at the expense of young families,'' Shapiro said. ``We want to make the parks more attractive to families and restoring family confidence in the brand.

At the end of the day, our consumers have to see Six Flags as clean, safe, friendly and fun.''

Dennis Spiegel, president of International Theme Park Services, an Ohio-based consulting firm, said he believes Shapiro's philosophy and the new additions to the board are a move in the right direction for Six Flags.

``To move a company in this industry forward, they have to reach outside the ride-attractions envelope into the major entertainment world,'' Spiegel said. ``To put in another roller coaster, that's not the answer. We've been doing that for the last 20 years in our industry, and our industry is basically stagnant.''

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