Theme park operator Six Flags Inc emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday after wiping out more than a billion dollars in debt by turning the company's ownership over to bondholders.

The company, which operates 19 amusement parks in North America, enters its high season without the constraints of bankruptcy and with less than half the debt it had a year ago.

The company now has more financial flexibility to pursue a shift in strategy toward attracting more families to its amusement parks, an approach spearheaded by Mark Shapiro when he took over the top executive job in 2006.

The company exits bankruptcy under the control of hedge funds such as Stark Investments, Pentwater Capital Management and Bay Harbour Management. The funds owned its bonds and invested $725 million to recapitalize the company.

That money, along with about $1.27 in new debt, was used to pay off creditors and finance the company as its main summer season nears. Six Flags entered bankruptcy with $2.7 billion in debt and obligations from redeemable securities.

The company's pre-bankruptcy shares were wiped out under the reorganization.

Six Flags said it will apply to list its new shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

The bankruptcy case is In re: Premier International Holdings Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 09-12019.

(Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by John Wallace)