SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the parent of SeaWorld San Diego and 10 other theme parks nationwide, said Thursday its chief executive is stepping aside amid a restructuring that will eliminate some jobs.
The change in executive leadership comes as the Orlando-based company weathers criticism over its treatment of killer whales and declines in park attendance. The company also announced Thursday a restructuring plan that will centralize some operations and cut some positions.
“The restructuring will result in the loss of some positions, and the company will offer severance benefits to those impacted,” the company said.
The company did not specify which positions or parks or how many employees would be affected.
SeaWorld said Chairman David D’Alessandro will serve as interim chief executive until the company finds a permanent successor to Jim Atchison, who will become vice chairman and serve as a consultant to the company in international expansion matters and conservation initiatives for three years. Atchison was named president and CEO in 2009.
“On behalf of the entire board, I’d like to thank Jim for his contributions to the company and express our ongoing support for our long-term strategy. Jim has helped the company realize its vision of becoming a leader in the theme park industry, one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal care,” D’Alessandro said in a statement.
The company said it expects to complete the search for a new chief executive in six to nine months.
SeaWorld is in the midst of a company-wide cost reduction initiative, with plans to find $50 million of annual cost savings by the end of 2015.
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