Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder is not the only investor who has his eye on Six Flags Inc., the nation's second-largest theme park company.
Since Six Flags put itself up for auction in August, three dozen prospective bidders, including private equity firms and theme park operators, have approached the company, said a source familiar with the process who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive stage of the discussions. The auction may be complete by the end of the year, the source said.
VisionMaker LLC, an Orange County, Calif., developer of destination resorts, is among the interested parties, said spokesman David Omel. Ronald Bension, a former Universal Studios executive who oversaw the company's theme park operations, has also been shopping for a theme park investment. He was among the investors who earlier this year lost to private equity firm Blackstone Group in an attempt to acquire the Legoland theme parks.
Bension did not return phone messages left at his home and on his cell phone.
Potential buyers are studying information provided by the company and are expected to decide within six weeks whether they want to continue in the auction.
So far, Snyder, the company's largest shareholder, has chosen to sit out that process, despite an invitation to participate by the Six Flags board.
Snyder has made clear in Securities and Exchange Commission filings that he does not want to buy the company outright, largely because it has more than $2 billion in debt.
Instead, Snyder on Friday headed to New York City to meet with shareholders and try to persuade them to turn the company over to him and his handpicked team. Snyder wants them to remove chief executive Kieran E. Burke, chief financial officer James F. Dannhauser and director Stanley S. Shuman and to install himself as chairman, former ESPN programming executive Mark Shapiro as chief executive, and local builder Dwight C. Schar as a director.
Karl Swanson, spokesman for Red Zone LLC, Snyder's investment vehicle for his Six Flags shares, had no comment.
Snyder began buying Six Flags shares in August 2004. The company's revenue and attendance had been declining for several years in a row, rebounding slightly this year.
Snyder has predicted that no buyer is likely to come forward, largely because of the size of the company's debt. But if a serious contender does come forward, Snyder said, he would not block a sale of Six Flags and would carefully consider any offers. At the same time, he implored shareholders not to sell and to give his team a chance to turn the company around.
If shareholders approve his slate of directors, Snyder may increase his stake from 11.7 percent to 34.9 percent, but he said he would not pay more than $6.50 per share, below yesterday's closing price of $7.39.