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Cedar Fair’s Legal Chief Leaving After 58% Pandemic Pay Cut

June 9, 2021, 7:56 PM

Cedar Fair LP, one of several amusement park operators with bottom lines hurt by Covid-19, is parting ways with its longtime legal chief Duffield “Duff” Milkie.

Milkie resigned immediately as executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, but will remain an employee of Cedar Fair until Sept. 30, the Sandusky, Ohio-based company disclosed in a securities filing Wednesday. Milkie will then transition to a non-employee advisory role at Cedar Fair that he’ll hold through Feb. 24, 2022.

Incentive awards he has will vest next year if he “provides the services required” and “complies with the restrictive covenants in his employment agreement,” a transition and release agreement between Milkie and Cedar Fair states. Milkie is no longer listed on Cedar Fair’s executive leadership page.

Milkie, who didn’t respond to a request for comment about his post-Cedar Fair plans, is heading for the exit after his pay package dropped by more than 58% in 2020. Cedar Fair revealed in an annual proxy statement filed in April that Milkie was paid nearly $730,000 last year, down from the more than $1.7 million in total compensation he received from the company in 2019.

Senior executives at Cedar Fair, including Milkie, agreed to take a 25% cut to their base salaries last year as part of “proactive measures to reduce operating expenses and cash outflow in response to Covid-19,” the company stated in its proxy. Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman agreed to take a 40% cut to his $850,000 base salary. Milkie’s base salary, prior to his own pay cut, was $460,000.

Milkie currently owns more than $4 million in Cedar Fair stock, according to Bloomberg data. The company hired him as a corporate vice president and general counsel in 2008 and gave him the corporate secretary role in 2012. Milkie became an executive vice president at Cedar Fair in 2015.

Cedar Fair spokesman Gary Rhodes told Bloomberg Law that the company is “working on a plan to ensure a smooth transition” and expects to conduct an outside search for a new general counsel.

Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s CEO, spoke with Bloomberg TV in May about the company’s plans to reopen all of its U.S. theme parks last month.

Cedar Fair, which more than a decade ago shook off a $2.4 billion takeover bid by Apollo Global Management LLC, owns and operates Cedar Point, the second-oldest amusement park in the U.S. and one located in its home city on a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie. The New York Times reported in 2018 that Steel Vengeance, a Cedar Point roller-coaster that opened that year, was one of the “wildest” in the U.S.

In 2019, amusement park rival Six Flags Entertainment Corp. also reportedly considered a potential acquisition of Cedar Fair. Six Flags hired its own new legal chief last year in Laura Doerre, who succeeded retired general counsel Lance Balk.

A proxy statement filed by Six Flags in March noted that Doerre received more than $2.3 million in total compensation during her first year on the job. Doerre took a 25% reduction to her $540,000 base salary as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

While that reduction was through year’s end, as of Oct. 1, Doerre saw her base salary increase to $650,000 when she took on the additional role of chief administrative officer, according to Six Flags’ proxy statement.

The Walt Disney Co., an entertainment giant that last year reduced the pay of its own longtime legal chief Alan Braverman, has quarreled with state officials over plans to reopen its various amusement parks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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