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Published: Saturday, 12/19/2009

Negotiators kept lid on acquisition talks; Cedar Fair deal came as surprise to industry

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Millenium Force roller coaster at Cedar Point is part of the package of rides and amusement parks to be acquired by Apollo Global Management LLC in a $2.4 billion package. The Millenium Force roller coaster at Cedar Point is part of the package of rides and amusement parks to be acquired by Apollo Global Management LLC in a $2.4 billion package.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Negotiations that ended in a deal for the $2.4 billion acquisition of Cedar Fair LP by Apollo Global Management LLC were a secret for 2 1/2 months that was so tightly kept that it caught at least one veteran industry observer off-guard.

One method used to keep the pending deal under wraps was the use of code names given to the parties involved during the preparation of legal documents that were subject to view by outside parties.

Cedar Fair was identified simply as "Seahorse" in the draft version of a 92-page merger document, the final version of which was posted online Thursday.

In the document, Apollo Global used the name "Siddur Holdings Ltd.," (as in "Si-ddur" or "Cedar") a name it incorporated under on Oct. 30 in the state of New York.

Stacey Frole, director of investor relations for Cedar Fair, said "Seahorse" was not a nickname for a Cedar Fair ride, employee, or anything else at the Sandusky company.

"It's just a name, just another way to identify the company in documents," she said. "As you're drafting the language to these type of documents it's all highly confidential," Ms. Frole said.

Documents sometimes must be viewed by outside parties, so code names are used to hide identities as a standard practice, she added. The Seahorse code name apparently did its job.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. in Cincinnati, said top industry CEOs were all surprised on Wednesday evening when the deal was made public.

"My phone started ringing off the hook around 7 p.m. Everyone in the industry really was surprised," Mr. Speigel said. "There was no word on this on the street whatsoever. No one knew there was any activity on this at all."



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