IRVING, TX ‑ CEC Entertainment investors are keeping a wary eye on iconic Chuck E. Cheese children's restaurants as 2013 financial reports showed the company getting off to a rocky start. With stock prices fluctuating, many are blaming one man: former Army four-star general Tommy Franks, once known as the "Beloved Savior of Iraq," and since March 2008, an independent director of CEC Entertainment.
The retired general was pulled into the company for his strategic vision and legendary war record. Smashing initial successes had members of the board celebrating on Wall Street at their newfound financial returns. On May 1, Company president Michael Magusiak, accompanied by Gen. Franks, reported a 28 percent increase in CEC's stock price, in front of a banner proudly proclaiming "Mission Accomplished."
Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived.
Soon after the FY 08 results were published, Franks inexplicably decided to fire every original manager of the company he had been hired to reinvigorate, then proceeded to recruit new handpicked personnel based solely on their ability to get along with his team.
In one notable instance shortly after the mass layoffs, children were seen looting the prize counter at the company's original location in San Jose, Calif., since there was no manager to stop it. When a local employee called him about the problem, Franks observed the situation and stressed that they just needed to figure it out on their own.
"I'm sure you'll be fine," he added, seconds before the employee was hit across the face by a stolen toy donkey thrown by one of the ringleaders.
Now, only five years after Franks assumed the mantel of director, hundreds of attacks against children, dozens of robberies, 300 percent inflation on game token prices, and countless allegations of corruption by his hand-picked local managers have led many to declare the fight to save the franchise "an unwinnable quagmire."
Last year, Franks responded to criticism in a widely publicized release, citing his prior experience in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, guiding Bank of America towards new economic heights, and his support of the completely legitimate Coalition to Salute America's Heroes charity foundation, as measures of his former success. Unfortunately for investors and children everywhere, the once popular establishment still struggles to maintain order.
In a controversial move, Franks recently hired and equipped armed groups of children to police their own local Chuck E. Cheese's in exchange for tokens and preferential service at the pizza line, but the violence continues.
Now allegations have arisen about those same "security" teams using their positions to extort the patrons of the restaurant chain, even demanding tickets for using the restrooms or obtaining napkins from the counter. When presented with this information, Franks responded that he was "hired to take over, but keeping the peace isn't my job."
Today, despite the change in regime, the franchise is in a dismal state.
The animatronic Chuck E. Cheese and his traveling band still won't work in most stores. Children continue to complain that ticket dispersal is either late or non-existent. The ticket-to-prize exchange has skyrocketed, and the training of new staff has been slow at best.
Now, the uncertain future looks bleak for the company, and at the time of this publication Duffel Blog has been informed by sources within the Department of Justice that CEC Entertainment is being investigated for over two billion unaccounted-for game tokens over the last four years.
At press time, Franks was unavailable for comment.