SeaWorld Entertainment chief executive officer Jim Atchison is stepping down from his post, the embattled company announced on Thursday.
The news comes the same day that the company announced a restructuring plan that will “centralize operations” and “result in the loss of some positions”.
Chairman of the board David D’Alessandro will serve as interim CEO starting on 15 January until the board picks a replacement.
“We remain committed to our growth agenda and enhancing value for our shareholders,” D’Alessandro said in a 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.”
The company has been plagued by bad publicity since the release of the documentary Blackfish in October 2013. The film painted an unsavory picture of how the company treats its signature killer whales.
The company has been fighting the negative publicity tide ever since. Shortly after the film was released, SeaWorld created a section on its website dedicated to fighting the claims made in the movie, which also aired on CNN.
“It firmly crosses the line of what you would expect from a news organization,” Atchison told Bloomberg in December 2013. “They are leveraging the imprimatur of a news agency for what really, clearly is another business venture of theirs, which is buying and marketing films.”
Atchison will become vice-chairman of the board and also be nominated to chairman of the board for the company’s nonprofit – SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
He has held the top position since 2009, having previously served as executive vice-president and general manager of SeaWorld Orlando from 2003 to 2007.
The restructuring initiative announced on Thursday will affect all of the company’s 11 parks.
“In order to achieve the goals of our business realignment, we regret that some positions will necessarily be eliminated,” Atchison said in a statement. “However, our cost savings effort is part of a broader program to position us for long term growth.”
This article was written by Amanda Holpuch in New York, for theguardian.com on Thursday 11th December 2014 22.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010