SeaWorld CEO steps down, company announces job cuts

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc announced that Jim Atchinson will be stepping down as chief executive officer. The theme park operator also said that it will be making job cuts.

The company did not specify how many jobs will be eliminated, but the cuts are part of its restructuring plan to save $50 million by the end of next year.

“In order to achieve the goals of our business realignment, we regret that some positions will necessarily be eliminated,” Atchison said. “However, our cost savings effort is part of a broader program to position us for long term growth.”

SeaWorld Entertainment has been under pressure and scrutiny after the 2013 documentary film “Blackfish” shed light on the abusive ways that it handles its orcas. The film focused on the death of one of the company’s trainers at its Orlando theme park by a whale.

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Entrance gate of SeaWorld San Antonio at night. Photo Credit: David R. Tribble

This has caused the company to have a poor public image. Across its 11 parks attendance has only increased twice in the past seven quarters.

Chairman David D’Alessandro will be assuming the role of interim CEO on January 15, 2015. He said that the company has also brought in two independent directors to its board.

“We remain committed to our growth agenda and enhancing value for our shareholders,” D’Alessandro said. “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.”

According to SeaWorld, it predicts that it will find a new permanent CEO within the next eight months.

Share of the company have fallen 44 percent this year. On Thursday SeaWorld shares closed at $16.09 on the NYSE.