SeaWorld CEO Steps Down Due to Low Park Attendance



SeaWorld Entertainment Incorporated is a U.S. family entertainment company. The theme park franchise has locations in Florida, Texas and California and has been established since 1964. SeaWorld announced on Thursday that the companies CEO, Jim Atchison is stepping down amidst controversy regarding the parks treatment of animals and due to low park attendance.

Since the recession, park attendance has been dwindling and has drastically dropped in three of the four past quarters. Since the release of the documentary film, Blackfish, the entertainment park has struggled to rise above public scrutiny. The documentary; released in 2013 and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, suggests that the park’s management of animals may have been the cause of one of its trainer’s death. Some experts believe the decline in park attendance is due to more than bad press but that SeaWorld has failed to provide a great entertainment infrastructure.

Attendance has been declining since 2008. Revenues are currently down by eight percent last quarter. This news led to the Board of Directors choosing to make changes at the top. The theme park corporation is planning to restructure the entire company; implementing changes in all eleven park locations. SeaWorld is pursuing expansion of its theme parks abroad and is said to be seeking to establish locations in Russia and the Middle East. With the current SeaWorld CEO stepping down due to low park attendance, the new CEO will be charged with restoring park attendance and rescuing the franchises reputation as well as profits.

The Board of Directors, are expecting to complete the search for a new CEO in six to nine months. The company has contracted with a top executive search firm to assist with the hiring of a new CEO. Jim Atchison has served SeaWorld as the CEO and president since 2010. His new role in the company will be as the vice chairman and will also be elected to the board of its nonprofit conservation fund. David D’Alessandro will take over as interim CEO as of January 15 and will serve until a permanent replacement is found. The Board also appointed two new directors to its board, William Gray who has been a senior consultant to an investment firm and minority shareholder in SeaWorld, and also Ellen Tauscher, a former congresswomen from California.

SeaWorld is also planning to reduce a number of jobs as part of cost cutting measures in order to survive reduced profits due to weak attendance. The company is expecting to save 50 million dollars annually due to the reduction. No word on how many jobs will be cut. The company says it’s seeking to reduce duplication of functions and become more efficient in its daily operations. Many experts feel this will not be enough but that the theme park needs to implicate better entertainment based attractions to draw in bigger crowds. As the CEO steps down due to low park attendance, SeaWorld is faced with finding solutions to several issues in order to improve the company’s standing as a family entertainment theme park.

By Kelara Pumphrey

ABC News
Bloomberg Businessweek
Washington Post

Photo by Wikimedia

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