Another SeaWorld CEO is resigning after clashing with the company’s board.
Serge Rivera, who took over the role in November 2019, is leaving the company effective immediately. A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said “his resignation was due to disagreements over the Board’s involvement in the decision making at the Company.”
That marks the fourth leadership change in the last six years. The last permanent CEO, Gus Antorcha, gave the same explanation for his own resignation after a seven-month tenure at SeaWorld Entertainment. Following his departure, a September 2019 research note from brokerage firm Stifel summed up the leadership structure at the Orlando-based theme park chain: “It’s very clear that Mr. Ross is the man in charge here,” referring to board chairman Scott Ross.
“The Board remains united in guiding the Company through the tough but necessary decisions to best position the business for long-term success,” Ross said in a statement announcing the CEO change.
Rivera’s short time at the helm saw the company report positive financial results for the final quarter of 2019, but that momentum will quickly have shifted thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. While Rivera had said on Feb. 26 that the parks were seeing “no discernible impact” from COVID-19 — at the time, there wasn’t a single confirmed case in Florida — all SeaWorld parks, including those located in Orlando as well as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, closed less than a month later.
Starting March 19, the company placed more than 90 percent of its workforce on furlough. Some part-time employees have not been paid since the closure began on March 16. Along with announcing Rivera’s departure, SeaWorld also disclosed that salaries for the company’s executive officers will temporarily cut by 20 percent, though any bonuses or severance will be calculated based on their original salary, per the SEC filing.
Chief financial officer Marc Swanson will again take over as interim CEO, as he did after Antorcha’s departure last September. The SEC filing stated that Swanson is expected to stay in the role until the COVID-19 closure ends.
“The Board will review the role once the Company reopens its theme parks,” the filing said.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that Rivera’s departure was the fourth leadership change at SeaWorld in the last five years. It’s actually the fourth change in the last six years. Orlando Rising apologizes for the error.
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