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SeaWorld CEO Manby departs after losses widen for the year

SeaWorld is posting a fourth-quarter loss of $20.4 million and says CEO Joel Manby is stepping down. [Associated Press]
SeaWorld is posting a fourth-quarter loss of $20.4 million and says CEO Joel Manby is stepping down. [Associated Press]
Published Feb. 27, 2018

ORLANDO — SeaWorld's CEO Joel Manby is stepping down from his post as the theme park operator posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and continues to work on transforming its business.

The company said Tuesday that John Reilly, chief parks operations officer, will take over as interim CEO. Chairman Yoshikazu Maruyama will serve as interim executive chairman until a permanent CEO is named. At that point, he will resume his position as chairman.

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For the three months ended Dec. 31, SeaWorld lost $20.4 million, or 24 cents per share. The Orlando-based company had a loss of $11.9 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier.

The performance was worse than the per-share loss of 18 cents that Wall Street had expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Quarterly revenue of $265.5 million beat out analyst projections for $260.1 million. Attendance declined 2.7 percent, but in-park spending climbed slightly.

Annual losses widened to $202.4 million, or $2.36 per share. Revenue fell to $1.26 billion from $1.34 billion, the fourth straight year of declines.

SeaWorld has struggled to reinvent itself since the 2013 documentary Blackfish questioned the park's handling of killer whales, especially the orca Tilikum that killed a trainer in 2010. Since then, the theme park operator has ended its orca breeding program and introduced a less theatrical dolphin show, among other changes.

In an interview last summer with the Tampa Bay Times, Manby said he felt he was making all the changes asked of him.

"Our goal at SeaWorld is to go along with that changing sentiment and be the leaders," he said at the time. "We have been the leading rescue organization in the world for a long time, but people don't know that."

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Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. closed Tuesday at $14.92, down more than 5 percent.

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