Six Flags declares bankruptcy, but is the ride over? Let's hope not!


Its TV commercials would count this as "no flags": Six Flags, which operates 20 amusement parks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Saturday.

It's been one long downhill ride for the thriller, which has been battling debt for years. The past few months have seen the park's embattled CEO, Mark Shapiro, giving high-profile interviews (like this one with CBS) about the company's dire straits that were, investors knew, de facto warnings of the coming filing. Even the parks' TV pitchman, the elderly Mr. Six, is aging and arthritic.

Despite the filing, the company's optimistic public face hasn't changed. "We can assure you that this is a corporate issue, and it does not affect the day-to-day operations of the parks," said a company rep. "Our parks are open this weekend, and will continue to be open with more new rides and attractions and longer hours all summer."

The company plans to file a reorganization plan that aims, mostly through deleveraging, to clear $2.4 billion in debt. Six Flags keeps some soggy books, and that started even before it had to write off an entire park in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Says Shapiro: "We are cleaning up the past and positioning the company for future growth."

So it's back-office accounting, and not attendance, that is the issue. In fact, thanks to the continued addition of new banner attractions and aggressive price-cutting, some of its parks posted record attendance last season.

Originally published