After several hours of negotiations, the 11 court cases fighting the Cedar Fair sale have been consolidated into one.
Nineteen attorneys deliberated in an Erie County jury room and decided the first case filed, on behalf of Indiana resident Todd Miller, would lead the legal battle against the acquisition of the amusement company.
Now that the lead case has been chosen, the attorneys for unitholders who filed the suits must agree on a single amended complaint. They have until next Tuesday to send that to the attorneys for Cedar Fair and its corporate suitor, Apollo Global Management. Attorneys for the two companies have until Feb. 9 to respond.
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Attorney Kenneth Vianale spoke on behalf of unitholders during Thursday's hearing. His firm, Vianale and Vianale, represents three of the clients in the growing cluster of complainants.
He said previous attempts to work out the organizational structure of the lawsuit failed.
Erie County magistrate Steve Bechtel said he did not want the court buried in motions that would take time away from hearing the merits of a motion to dismiss the case. He asked the attorneys to try to resolve this issue before leaving the courthouse Thursday.
What remains to be settled, however, is whether the lawyers will be given their request for a speedy discovery process. They argue the preliminary proxy statement that unitholders may use to help decide whether to vote for the sale may contain inaccurate or insufficient financial information. The unitholders need to prove this to argue for an injunction to stop the sale while the case is heard.
To help determine if the information is faulty, Vianale argued they need to take depositions from financial advisors for Cedar Fair.
He also questioned how two corporations, supposedly acting independently, can choose the same 16 companies for financial analysis without being questioned by the board. The 16 companies included theaters, restaurants, casinos and entertainment, but left out Disney, Great Wolf Resorts and Vail Resorts.
Cedar Fair CEO Dick Kinzel's son previously worked for Great Wolf Resorts.
Unitholders also want to see board minutes from meetings in which company officials discussed the sale.
Bechtel said the lawyers have until Jan. 27 to come to an agreement on what information will be shared or whether the court will rule on the unitholders' request.