Apollo Management to buy Cedar Fair in $2.4 billion deal

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Private equity firm Apollo Management has agreed to acquire amusement park operator Cedar Fair in a transaction worth about $2.4 billion.

Cedar Fair's 18 parks include Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.

Apollo's travel investments include Harrah's Entertainment, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Prestige Cruise Holdings (parent of Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises).

Apollo will pay Cedar Fair stockholders $11.50 a share in cash, or about $635 million. The share price is 28% more than the company’s Dec. 15 closing price on New York Stock Exchange.

Apollo also will assume Cedar Fair's $1.7 billion in debt.

The acquisition, which will require approval from two-thirds of Cedar Fair’s shareholders, is expected to be completed by June 2010, Cedar Fair.

"Apollo has a strong track record of growing businesses," said Cedar Fair lead director Michael Kwiatkowski in a statement. "This transaction allows Cedar Fair unit holders to realize significant value from their investment in our company over recent trading levels."

Attendance at Cedar Fair's parks has been affected by the poor economy. Through the end of September, park visits were down 6% from a year earlier, the company said.

Prior to the Apollo announcement, shares of Cedar Fair had fallen 19% for the year.

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