SeaWorld CEO to Step Down as Park Attendance Drops

The CEO of the parent company of SeaWorld San Diego is stepping down as head of the company and named his chairman as interim leader.

Jim Atchison has served as CEO and president of the theme park company since 2009. SeaWorld says he will become vice chairman. Chairman David D'Alessandro will take over as interim CEO in January.

Attendance is dropping at the SeaWorld Entertainment parks, which include locations in Orlando and San Antonio in addition to San Diego. It has been battling negative publicity surrounding its treatment of killer whales following the documentary "Blackfish" that suggested its treatment of the animals may have led to the death of trainers.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. also said Thursday that it will eliminate an unspecified number of jobs as it cuts costs.

Just last month, SeaWorld announced its third-quarter earnings fell 28 percent from a year ago as attendance fell.

Attendance to its theme parks fell 5.6 percent to 8.4 million in the third quarter from 8.9 million in the same period a year ago, SeaWorld said.

“Clearly, 2014 has been a challenging year, but I am confident we are taking the necessary steps to address our near term challenges and position the company to deliver value over the long term,” SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison said in a statement last month.

SeaWorld is attributing the decline bad publicity and competition from other popular attractions, such as the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando.

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