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CEO of SeaWorld Stepping Down as Attendance and Stock Slump

Image: CEO of SeaWorld Stepping Down as Attendance and Stock Slump
SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison. (Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Landov, file)

By    |   Friday, 12 Dec 2014 10:11 AM

SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison is stepping down as the park franchise sees a steady decline in its stock price and attendance caused by the death of one of its trainers and the long-running documentary "Blackfish" that puts the parks in a negative light, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau died Orlando in 2010 while working with a killer whale, noted the Sentinel, and the public relations problems were compounded with the 2013 documentary which charges that the time killer whales spend in captivity makes them overly aggressive.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that, according to a regulatory filing, Atchison will leave his post officially on Jan. 15 with a $2.4 million parachute. The newspaper said the company announced on Thursday that a planned job restructuring plan will affect all 11 theme parks in its system.

SeaWorld said in a statement on Thursday that Atchison will serve as vice chairman of the board of directors while board chairman David F. D'Alessandro performs the duties of  CEO until a successor has been selected.

"It has been an honor to lead SeaWorld," Atchison said in the statement. "I am so proud of this company and our dedicated team members. I look forward to serving as vice chairman and continuing to work with the board, David, and our exceptional team to assure a smooth transition."

SeaWorld said it plans to have a replacement for Atchison in six to nine months.

"We remain committed to our growth agenda and enhancing value for our shareholders, D'Alessandro said in the SeaWorld statement. "The board intends to complete the search process deliberately and thoughtfully to find the right individual with the experience and qualifications to lead the company into the future."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told the Union-Tribune it hopes Atchison's departure will mark a turning point for SeaWorld.

"Jim Atchison's watch has meant lawsuits, tanking stock, canceled performances by musical acts, falling ticket sales, and continued deprivation and isolation for orcas at SeaWorld," said PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders.

"Public opinion has turned solidly against SeaWorld, and the park can't turn back time. The only way to move forward is by finding someone who can take the park in an innovative new direction, one that PETA hopes will see animals released to coastal sanctuaries and new exhibits," Winders said.

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SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison is stepping down as the park franchise sees a steady decline in its stock price and attendance caused by the death of one of its trainers and the long-running documentary "Blackfish" that puts the parks in a negative light, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
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2014-11-12
Friday, 12 Dec 2014 10:11 AM
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