Chief Parks Operations Officer John T. Reilly will serve as interim CEO following the departure of Joel Manby, according to the Orlando, Florida-based company. The board plans to launch a national search to find a permanent successor.
Manby was hired in 2015 to help turn SeaWorld around following a firestorm of criticism over its killer whales that resulted dip in attendance. On Tuesday, SeaWorld shares fell 5.21 percent in value, diving to $14.92.
Meanwhile, an orca expert with the Animal Welfare Institute says she regrets Manby’s departure.
Naomi Rose, AWI marine mammal scientist, said in a statement:
“During his tenure as CEO, Mr. Manby ended the breeding of the company’s captive orcas and toned down the theatrical elements of the circus-like orca and dolphin shows.
“While he needed to do much more, including set a goal of retiring the orcas to seaside sanctuaries, Mr. Manby clearly understood that the world is increasingly less accepting of keeping these large, wide-ranging, intelligent beings in concrete tanks.
“We strongly urge his replacement, John Reilly, to maintain the forward progress that Mr. Manby began and not reverse course by sending its animals to theme parks abroad.”
Reilly has served as park president of SeaWorld San Diego and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He has been with the company for more than three decades.
“The board agreed that this transition plan is the right approach to advance the company’s progress and create value for all our important stakeholders,” said Donald Robinson, lead independent board director.
Reilly serves on the board of trustees of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and holds a bachelor’s degree from The College of William & Mary.
Others noted SeaWorld’s recent economic performance and falling attendance.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby stepped down after the theme park posted a fourth-quarter loss of $20.4 million. 120,000 fewer people attended the parks last quarter – Market Watch pic.twitter.com/cY9cFuo8kz
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) February 27, 2018
BREAKING: #SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby is stepping down from the failing company. He was a disaster—tone-deaf to public opinion and stonehearted toward the animals held in old-style tanks at SeaWorld. https://t.co/Zzjx2T5CmK
— PETA (@peta) February 27, 2018
Ding Dong, one wicked warlock is dead. #SeaWorld CEO Manby is out! Now, let’s see if the next one frees the orcas as SeaWorld is leaking money badly: Keep the pressure on, it’s working.https://t.co/gVHTFA6cyu
— Ingrid Newkirk (@IngridNewkirk) February 27, 2018
— John Hargrove (@johnjhargrove) February 27, 2018
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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