Navigating Through Troubled Waters..SeaWorld CEO Steps Down as the Theme Park Deals with Coronavirus Closures

PC: John Raoux; AP

SeaWorld Entertainment’s chief executive has resigned only five months into his job, becoming the third leader of the theme park company to depart in just over two years, according to a company filing released Monday. Rivera handed in his resignation Saturday. He was named the CEO of the company last November.

Sergio Rivera cited his disagreement with the board of directors’ involvement in decision-making at the company, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. His predecessor, Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha, cited a similar reason for his leaving last September.

“The board remains united in guiding the company through the tough but necessary decisions to best position the business for long-term success,” board chairman Scott Ross said in a statement.

Marc Swanson, SeaWorld’s chief financial officer and treasurer, was named interim CEO. The company said he would stay in the job at least until the theme parks reopen.

“The board will review the role once the company reopens its theme parks,” the SEC filing said.

The company said more than a week ago that it was furloughing 90% of its workers.

SeaWorld employs about 4,700 full-time employees and approximately 12,000 part-time employees. During peak season in 2018, the company hired more than 4,000 additional seasonal workers, many of whom are high school and college students. None of the company’s employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

The pandemic also has forced the closures of SeaWorld’s crosstown rivals, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, as well as their California counterparts. Disney World said last week it would start furloughing executive, salaried and hourly non-union employees in mid-April, as it didn’t know when its parks would reopen. Universal Orlando had previously aimed to re-open its parks in mid-April, but a spokesman said that the closures likely will be extended.

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Reuters; USA Today; Spokesmayne