SeaWorld CEO resigns after just five months

SeaWorld CEO resigns after just five months

Mr Rivera's departure comes as over 90 per cent of company employees are furloughed, and theme parks are shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 06 April 2020 15:18

Serge Rivera, CEO of SeaWorld, has resigned after just five months in the position, reports say.

Mr Rivera resigned over a disagreement with the board’s decision-making, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

He is the fourth CEO in five years, and his predecessor left after only seven months, for the same reason.

The departure of Mr Rivera comes as over 90 per cent of the company's employees are furloughed and the theme parks are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Executives have also taken a 20 per cent pay cut.

Mr Rivera, whose career has mainly focussed on the hotel sector, was paid $600,000 plus stock options. He is not eligible for severance benefits, according to an SEC filing the company made on Monday.

Stepping into the role as interim CEO is SeaWorld's chief financial officer, Marc Swanson.

The Orlando, Florida-based company operates 12 theme parks, with three branded as SeaWorld in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego. It has plans to open SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in 2022.

As with the rest of the of the travel and tourism industry, the company has been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Its stock is down approximately 70 per cent this year.

The company began the year by replacing its centrepiece One Ocean show with a program called Orca Encounter, about killer whales’ role in the ocean ecosystem, their behaviour in the wild, the importance of conservation, and animal welfare practices at SeaWorld.

'One Ocean' had a similar theme and was SeaWorld's first show that did not include trainers in the water with the killer whales — a change that was made after the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was drowned by a killer whale.

The company also suffered after the 2013 documentary Blackfish was highly critical of SeaWorld policies leading animal rights group PETA to the company to call for the relocation of the orca to ocean sanctuaries.

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