ORLANDO, Fla. – After posting a fourth-quarter net loss of $20.4 million, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby is stepping down, the company announced Tuesday.
SeaWorld said in a news release that the company's board of directors and Manby, who's been at the helm since 2015, agreed that "it is the right time to identify a new CEO as the company enters its next phase of intensified focus on execution and growth."
Fourth quarter total revenues were $265.5 million, down from $267.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. The quarterly revenue beat out analyst projections of $260.1 million. Annual losses widened to $202.4 million, or $2.36 per share. Revenue was $1.26 billion.
Attendance dropped nearly 3 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2016, according to the an earnings report released Tuesday.
SeaWorld has struggled with declining revenue and public perception problems since the release of the documentary “Blackfish."
Current Chief Parks Operations Officer John T. Reilly has been named interim CEO.
Chairman of the Board Yoshikazu Maruyama, a 22-year veteran of the global theme park and entertainment industry, has been named interim executive chairman until a permanent CEO is appointed by the board.
"Over the past three years, Joel has worked tirelessly to strengthen SeaWorld's position as a company that combines entertainment, education, and its important mission to protect marine life and the oceans. Our improving fourth quarter and positive year-to-date trends give us confidence that the steps we have taken position us well for 2018," Maruyama said.
"I am so proud of this company and all we have accomplished to position SeaWorld for continued success by providing fun and truly meaningful experiences that connect our guests to the natural world," Manby said. "John is an ideal choice to lead the company, and I feel confident that I leave SeaWorld in incredibly capable hands. I look forward to continuing to work with Yoshi, John, and the entire board during the transition."
An executive search firm will assist in the search for Manby's successor.
Reilly was appointed as the chief parks operations officer of the company in April 2016. His role has operational oversight over all of the company's theme parks. Prior to that, Reilly served as park president of SeaWorld San Diego from 2010 until April 2016 and park president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg from 2008 to 2010. Reilly has held other positions of increasing responsibility with the company since 1985. Reilly serves on the board of trustees of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William & Mary.