At a time when its theme parks are shut down indefinitely and the vast majority of its workforce has been temporarily laid off, executives at SeaWorld have been granted $6.8 million in stock awards. 

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment announced the compensation committee on its board of directors had approved stock awards for its executive officers. The stock units, which will fully vest after two years, are “designed to recognize employees for their extraordinary contributions and continued expected contributions to the Company and its long term goals during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the filing. 

The $6.8 million in awards will be split between six individuals:

  • Marc Swanson, interim CEO: $1.5 million
  • Walter Bogumil, chief operating officer: $1.3 million
  • Tony Taylor, chief legal officer: $1.1 million 
  • Chris Dold, chief zoological officer: $975,000
  • Elizabeth Gulacsy, interim chief financial officer and chief accounting officer: $937,500
  • Sherri Nadeau, chief human resources officer: $910,000 

While SeaWorld had previously announced its executives’ base salaries would be cut by 20 percent until the parks are back in operation, the stock awards will more than make up for those temporary reductions, based on SEC data about executive compensation at SeaWorld.

SeaWorld was first among the major Orlando theme parks to furlough its employees, announcing they would not be paid after March 31. More than 90 percent of the company’s workforce has been temporarily laid off as a result of closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Payments for some part-time employees stopped as soon as SeaWorld’s Orlando parks and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay closed on March 16. 

SeaWorld did not respond to an email from Orlando Rising, asking why stock awards for executives were justified at a time when the company has furloughed most of its workers. 

The company recently saw another CEO resign, citing interference in decision-making from the SeaWorld board. Serge Rivera had only taken over the role in November. His departure marks the theme park chain’s fourth leadership change in the past six years. Rivera’s short tenure meant he was not eligible for severance.

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