Six Flags Gains Ground Under Redskins' Snyder

By Jerry Knight
Monday, January 23, 2006

Okay, so Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder can't get his football team into the Super Bowl, but the guy sure knows how to make money on his new sideline -- the Six Flags amusement park chain.

Since Snyder launched his bid to take control of Six Flags last summer, the stock market value of the company has grown by more than $360 million.

Since the first of the year, Six Flags stock has gained 37 percent. And it has jumped every time Snyder announced another management move.

When Snyder seated three of his pals on the Six Flags board a couple of weeks ago, the stock jumped $1 in two days -- boosting the company's market value by more than $90 million.

Even last week's announcement that smoking will be banned in the parks was accompanied by a 27-cent pop in the stock, raising the value of Six Flags by an additional $25 million.

Amazingly, the stock even advanced in the midst of Friday's massive stock retreat, climbing 15 cents a share to $10.57. That's the highest it's been in more than three years.

What's impressive about the advance of Six Flags stock is that the shares have climbed steadily even though many traders cashed out as soon as Snyder took over -- without waiting to see what he does with the company.

They were simply playing the takeover trade, a pretty reliable way to make money on Wall Street. Six Flags shares were going for $5 and change in August when Snyder made his first move. The takeover traders bought the stock immediately and quickly saw it climb past $7. Many of them apparently cashed in back in late December, when there was heavy trading in the shares.

It looks as if that selling held down the price of Six Flags shares in the waning days of 2005, but after New Year's, the stock took off as investors lined up to take a ride.

Wall Street analysts can't claim credit for steering their clients to Six Flags. Only one big firm, Bear, Stearns & Co., has recommended the stock. The shares are rated "hold" or "sell" by the handful of analysts at smaller firms who follow the company.

The shares probably benefited from a plug they got Tuesday on CNBC from Mark Cuban, the mega-millionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Cuban said he had "bought Six Flags -- that's my new one -- because I thought Daniel Snyder and Mark Shapiro can make . . . changes."

Shapiro, the former ESPN executive brought in by Snyder to run the theme-park chain, started making changes the minute he and the rest of Snyder's team took over.

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