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Meet the CEO: Michael Magusiak

The CEO behind CEC Entertainment is taking Chuck E. Cheese's global, with nearly 60 new international locations in the works.
photo by Billy Surface

When Michael Magusiak joined Irving-based CEC Entertainment as controller in 1987, some of his friends were concerned. “They asked me if I had looked at the company’s financials,” he says.

There was reason for worry; the company was essentially bankrupt.

At the time, Magusiak was looking for a new career challenge.

“Chuck E. Cheese’s was every bit that challenge,” he says. “We didn’t have enough money to pay our bills.” However, working with others to put the company back on track has been “incredibly invigorating.”

CEC Entertainment went public in 1989. Magusiak was named president five years later, and CEO in 2008. The company’s improved cash flow over the years has allowed it to buy $1 billion of its own stock between 2003 and 2012.  

Known for its life-size, robotic characters—like its iconic Chuck E. Cheese mouse mascot—CEC has 562 venues around the world, with plans for 58 new international locations.

Age: 56

Parental advice: My dad and both of my mom’s parents are immigrants from Poland. My parents instilled in my siblings and me that America is truly the land of opportunity. Here, you can accomplish anything, if you’re willing to work.

First job: Delivering newspapers. I had to wake up at 5 a.m., and it was sometimes difficult to pull my wagon filled with newspapers through the snow in Warren, Ohio.

Management style: Establish crystal-clear direction; support my teammates and provide them with autonomy—star performers love autonomy. Require two-way accountability. I’m accountable for supporting them and they’re accountable for timely and quality implementation.

Weaknesses: I am not very patient or tolerant of poor execution.
Biggest challenge: Family entertainment continues to evolve, and the extent of our future success depends on our ability to evolve and market our concept.

Key to success: We have a unique blend of tenured and relatively new individuals in key executive positions. And we’re fortunate to have a great concept with a very good earnings model.

Family: Wendy and I have been married for more than 30 years. We are blessed to have three sons. Jason, 24, is a CPA working for KPMG; Matt, 23, is a senior at Ole Miss who will graduate next semester with a double major in accounting and marketing; and Nick, 17,  is a junior in high school.

Leisure: My wife and I spend a lot of time at ice arenas watching two of our boys play hockey. I also enjoy golfing with our middle son, and we enjoy boating as a family.

Family memory: Every Halloween when our boys were young, my wife would take them next door while I changed into a Chuck E. Cheese costume and I’d take them around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat. My boys never knew it was me. In fact, one year they wanted to bring Chuck E. home to meet Daddy.

Biggest pet peeve: Individuals who do not achieve their full potential because of a poor work ethic.

Reading material: Currently, The Life Application Bible, and Wearing the C: Leadership Secrets of Some of Hockey’s Greatest Captains.

TV: Mostly sports. I’m a big Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars fan.

Looking ahead: CEC Entertainment has a significant opportunity to increase comparable-store sales over the next few years. And we’ve signed development agreements with partners in several countries throughout South America, the Middle East, and the Far East.