SeaWorld Entertainment is once again looking for a new chief executive.
Current CEO Gus Antorcha is resigning from the post at SeaWorld Orlando’s parent company after seven months on the job. In his place, chief financial officer Marc Swanson has been appointed interim Chief Executive Officer. Elizabeth Castro Gulacsy, the company’s chief accounting officer, is being moved up to interim CFO.
A Monday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicates Antorcha quit on Friday, Sept. 13 after butting heads with the company’s board of directors.
“Mr. Antorcha informed the Company that his resignation was due to disagreements over the Board’s involvement in the decision making at the Company,” the filing said.
Antorcha isn’t entitled to — and won’t be seeking — any severance package, according to the SEC filing.
The press release from SeaWorld gives no concrete reason for Antorcha’s departure and only hinted at disagreements behind the scenes.
“While I may have a difference of approach, I continue to believe in SeaWorld’s strategy, mission, team and prospects,” Antorcha said in a prepared statement. “Marc and Elizabeth are fine leaders, and I am confident in their abilities to guide the Company forward.”
SeaWorld chairman Scott Ross said “we thank Gus for his contributions and wish him well in his future endeavors” — which is the only mention of the outgoing CEO in prepared statements from Ross, Swanson, and Gulacsy.
Antorcha’s tenure saw SeaWorld continue its streak of positive financial financial results, reporting further increases in attendance and revenue. Through the first half of 2019, the entire SeaWorld Entertainment chain reported that attendance was up by 1.7 percent and revenue had jumped by nearly 3 percent year-over-year.
But his tenure also saw multiple longtime executives leave the company, beginning with former interim CEO John Reilly in March. Mark Pauls, president of the SeaWorld and Aquatica parks in Orlando, stepped down in April, followed by the departures of Busch Gardens Willamsburg president Kevin Lembke in July and SeaWorld San Antonio president Carl Lum earlier this month.
Antorcha’s time as CEO also saw the company lose two U.K. travel partners in Virgin Holidays and British Airways. When the latter announced in August it would no longer sell tickets or offer tours to SeaWorld (or any other attractions that feature captive animals), Antorcha’s statement struck a more confrontational tone, blaming the move on “radical animal rights activists.”
At least publicly, Swanson is indicating the company will stick to its present course.
“We will continue to focus on improving our execution with enhanced marketing and communications initiatives, more effective pricing strategies, the introduction of new compelling rides, attractions and events and relentlessly seeking and executing on cost and capital efficiencies,” Swanson said. “I’m incredibly excited about the business and the opportunities we have before us to continue to entertain and inspire our guests and significantly increase shareholder value.”
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