Yesterday, I reviewed six of the more likely suitors for Six Flags (NYSE: PKS ) . Today, I'd like to name another half-dozen candidates, even though I still believe that Dan Snyder's Red Zone, or more likely a private equity firm, will be the top bidder for the struggling regional amusement park operator.
Whatever happens, it's clear that it's time for a regime change at Six Flags. With or without a willing bidder, something's got to give at the helm. The company has squandered its golden opportunity and has denied its investors for far too long. And now even the sale itself has become deep-fried in irony. Consider that one of the companies exploring strategic alternatives for Six Flags is financial advisor Allen & Co. The problem? Allen & Co.'s managing director, Stanley Shuman, also sits on the Six Flags board and was one of the three people whom Snyder was proposing to oust in his proxy battle. Conflict of interest, anyone?
That's why this battle may prove to be more entertaining than just seeing which entity winds up willing to take on Six Flags and its gargantuan debt load. Still, there are so many potential callers waiting outside Six Flags' turnstiles that I couldn't just let it rest after going over the usual suspects yesterday. Let's tackle some of the unusual ones today.
Sony (NYSE: SNE ) is a name that makes a lot of sense. Many of its rival movie studio companies have theme park properties. Based in Japan, Sony also sees how Disneyland and Universal Studios have become huge draws in its own country.
Sony may be the entertainment conglomerate with the most logical synergies in cashing in on the Six Flags audience. Sony Music's catalog of artists would find 30 welcome venues to showcase their tunes -- either live in the park, or as queue music. In addition, Sony is in the process of launching a massive marketing campaign for its new Bravia high-definition LCD television sets, and you can just imagine how those bland switchback lines for the Six Flags coasters would brighten up with state-of-the-art Bravia monitors, which could move along a themed ride's story and derive additional advertising revenue in the process.
Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has the greenery on its balance sheet to make an all-cash buyout happen. Given its volatile share price, though, Apple would be taking a real gamble if the market interpreted the acquisition as misguided -- even though it wouldn't be. The parks attract the core iPod audience, after all. But for Apple, such a move would be more than just a brand-building acquisition. Apple could also spruce up the parks to promote its flagship Mac business. It could also use its online prowess to do something that Six Flags shamelessly forgot to do -- keep in touch with its guests. From digital delivery of onboard photographs to podcast updates and park reviews, Apple could really turn Six Flags into an Apple-centric experience in no time.
That brings us to News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) , another media giant that's already built inroads to American youth. Just look at Fox's programming. The Simpsons could spawn its own themed Springfields. Can't you just imagine the potential of Moe's taverns, wild Otto bus rides, and Treehouse of Terror Halloween events? And live entertainment couldn't get any better than American Idol karaoke, could it? Rupert Murdoch has been aiming for the young'ns virally, too, with his proposed buyout of social networking hub MySpace.com.
The largest park operator that I didn't single out yesterday was General Electric (NYSE: GE ) . That's because when GE swallowed NBC and Universal, the Universal theme parks seemed to become an afterthought. In fact, consider that there hasn't been a single new ride added to the amazing Islands of Adventure in five years. GE hasn't been in any rush to change that status. However, if GE ever comes to recognize that its theme parks are an important cog in its conglomerate engine, then it would make perfect sense for the company to buy Six Flags and grow the reach of its now-struggling NBC network.
More suitors? I promised two more. There are actually far more than that, but I will wrap up my observations with a pair of firecrackers. XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR ) and Sirius (Nasdaq: SIRI ) have no reason to be buying Six Flags. They don't have the money. Buying the theme park would ground their perceived potential as high-flying investments. But think about who would want the 33 million guests that Six Flags draws in every year. You can't count on owning the park guests' eyes with visuals, but you know you will have their ears all day long. That's why satellite radio, because of its coast-to-coast coverage, is the perfect speaker. Get the locals hooked on the subscription services. Build out the advertising given the new reach.
It's not as outlandish an idea as it may seem. Though, yes, I'll admit that it would make more sense for someone else to pony up the $3 billion-4 billion that it will take to swallow Six Flags whole, and then make a run to be the exclusive satellite radio provider for the new owner. Even if they are rented, 33 million pairs of ears would be invaluable for satellite radio.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves to take his family to new amusement parks every summer. He practices what he preaches -- he owns shares in Six Flags.The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.