Joel Manby out as CEO at SeaWorld Entertainment

Posted Tuesday, February 27, 2018 9:15 AM | Contributed by Jeff

From the press release:

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS), a leading theme park and entertainment company, today announced that it is initiating a leadership transition plan. With improving operating and financial performance trends along with substantial progress in enhancing the strategic positioning of the Company's mission-driven brand, the Company's Board of Directors and current President and Chief Executive Officer, Joel Manby, agreed that this is the right time to identify a new CEO as the Company enters its next phase of intensified focus on execution and growth.

Under the plan, current Chief Parks Operations Officer, John T. Reilly, has become interim CEO succeeding Mr. Manby, who has stepped down. Current Chairman of the Board Yoshikazu Maruyama – a 22-year veteran of the global theme park and entertainment industry – has become interim Executive Chairman until a permanent CEO is appointed by the Board, at which time Mr. Maruyama will resume his position as Chairman of the Board of Directors. These changes are effective immediately. Mr. Manby has agreed to assist the Company to ensure a smooth transition.

Donald C. Robinson, Lead Independent Director, said, "The Board agreed that this transition plan is the right approach to advance the Company's progress and create value for all our important stakeholders. We know John will be an excellent leader in this new role and we thank Yoshi for taking on this additional interim responsibility to ensure a smooth transition. Finally, we want to express our deep appreciation to Joel for his leadership and contributions as CEO."

"Over the past three years, Joel has worked tirelessly to strengthen SeaWorld's position as a company that combines entertainment, education, and its important mission to protect marine life and the oceans. Our improving fourth quarter and positive year-to-date trends give us confidence that the steps we have taken position us well for 2018," Mr. Maruyama said.

"John Reilly is a highly experienced operator with decades of theme park experience and a demonstrated ability to improve performance and drive growth through disciplined execution. In addition to serving as Chief Parks Operations Officer, John has served as Park President of SeaWorld San Diego and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, among other roles and has been with the Company for over 32 years. He knows SeaWorld well and understands our opportunities. With one of our most compelling lineups of new rides and attractions, new pricing plans, and comprehensive new sales, marketing and communications initiatives, we are confident we will maintain and accelerate our current momentum under John's experienced direction. The Board and I believe my industry experience complements John's, and so I will be available to him as a resource in this interim period," Mr. Maruyama continued.

"I am so proud of this Company and all we have accomplished to position SeaWorld for continued success by providing fun and truly meaningful experiences that connect our guests to the natural world," said Mr. Manby. "John is an ideal choice to lead the Company, and I feel confident that I leave SeaWorld in incredibly capable hands. I look forward to continuing to work with Yoshi, John, and the entire Board during the transition."

The Board of Directors has engaged a leading executive search firm to assist in the search for Mr. Manby's successor.

Read the entire release on PR Newswire.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 9:25 AM

Well that didn’t last long. Wonder if we will see an about-face on the no more whales decision?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018 9:32 AM

Are you kidding? I think it should have happened sooner.

Here's the thing... I get the whole don't-make-them-perform thing, but to act like your whales are a footnote I think is a terrible idea. You're not going to get the people who think that captive animals are terrible ever, so why wouldn't you emphasize the encounters with these beautiful animals to everyone else? I've said it a thousand times, no one would give a **** about oceanic conservation if it wasn't for SeaWorld.

Now, stop dicking around with the weak cap ex program and build stuff that people want in Orlando.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018 9:53 AM

Jeff I agree with what you said about the animals. We were at Sea World for a couple days in January and had a blast. My 8yo son was amazed feeding the stingrays and watching the dolphins & orcas. Oh and the coasters were pretty awesome, too. But I don’t know what that park would be without animals...

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018 11:31 AM

I hate how they (not just SeaWorld, all companies do this) say they “lost” $20M this quarter and have “lost” $200M over the last year. They make it sound like they are running in the red, bleeding money. They should say they made $20M less this quarter compared to a year ago, and $200M less this year than the prior year. They made less money than last year, they didn’t lose money. You can’t lose something you never had.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018 12:18 PM

They are running in the red. They made $1.26 billion in revenue but had $1.46 billion in expenses so they ended up in the hole for $200 million over the year. That’s the definition of a loss. These numbers don’t include things like loans and new investments so they don’t necessarily indicate the overall health of the company. However, I looked at their most recent financial report, and their cash on hand went from $69 million in 2016 to $33 million in $2017, and their total assets decreased from $2.3 billion to $2 billion. These numbers do not paint a rosy story for the company.

Their revenue dropped from $1.34 billion last year to $1.26 billion this year, so their decrease in “money they never had” was $80 million.

Last edited by PhantomTails, Wednesday, February 28, 2018 12:29 PM
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Thursday, March 1, 2018 12:43 PM

The Washington Post published a news analysis of the SeaWorld press release. The analysis hits the mark and nicely deconstructs this corporate speak and it is brutal:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2018/02/27/seaworld...0041ce0b9f

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Thursday, March 1, 2018 12:57 PM

One of the interesting things to me is that "analysts" get too hung up on the whales, and frankly the San Diego and Orlando markets are very different in size, scope and perception. Most people don't even know the Busch Gardens parks are related. The problem was and is Orlando's ability to be competitive, and I will stand by that assertion forever. The only thing interesting to happen there in the last decade is Mako, while UO and Disney have been on insane cap ex binges. People who go to SeaWorld love it, but even among people who like the park, the amount of mindshare they get in the face of Harry Potter, Avatar, Star Wars and Volcano Bay is shrinking.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018 4:42 PM

^exactly, two years ago I owned a Universal AP and went down for a couple of week long trips throughout the year, every time I spent 1 day at BGT and SWO because I had my fill of Universal. This year I’ve had a Universal AP and it has only been special events that pulled me to the SEAS parks (Howl-O-Scream, Xmas at Sea world.). Universal has so upped their game that I have a hard time leaving. Last year when I had a WDW pass, I never left the World

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Friday, March 2, 2018 2:56 PM

I think that cap-ex is the way to go at this point, especially on the coaster front. Perhaps it sounds very enthusiast-ish, but with the Dragons gone at IOA, SWO has far and away the best coaster lineup in a single park in Orlando, and I'd like to think that another solid coaster or two could really put them in an unrivaled position for thrills in Orlando. I still think that animals will play a large part of their success going forward (animals smaller than orcas, anyway), but they'll never win on IP or anything like that, so I think that their best bet is to go the way of basic thrilling mechanical rides and offer a very different product than the other big names in town.

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Friday, March 2, 2018 7:29 PM

SWO may be best positioned for the specific coaster niche, but is it better positioned than Universal/IoA for the thrill ride niche? I haven't been in about 10 years, but my understanding was that Potter World, though coaster-less, was still "better than coasters" to most people.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Friday, March 2, 2018 7:29 PM
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Friday, March 2, 2018 8:41 PM

I went to Uni several years ago with a friend who is a yooooge Harry Potter fan. It was her first time at the Wizarding World. We entered and she was nearly in tears; she said it was like walking into one of the movies.

The Potter ride may not be a coaster, but it's an incredible ride.

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Friday, March 2, 2018 9:38 PM

I was at Sea World just two weeks ago. It was a medium crowd, I’d say, and whoever showed up that day seemed to have a mild interest in the thrill rides. Most were a walk on or a station wait. The shows were packing them in all day though.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018 11:44 AM

I haven’t done the state side Potters but the Uni Japan one was amazingly done (and I’ve never seen a Potter movie or read a book), so I can assume that the Orlando version, being much bigger, is just as, if not more so, amazing. And very thrilling.

Last edited by Tekwardo, Saturday, March 3, 2018 11:44 AM
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Saturday, March 3, 2018 4:22 PM

It is. Seriously, it stands as one (two) of the most satisfying themed experiences I’ve ever encountered. The rides, shops, and eats are so authentic. And the train ride is genius. (On a couple of levels)

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Saturday, March 3, 2018 4:25 PM

The wait for the train really takes you out of the moment though. That's kind of annoying. At least on the studio side it feels like a genuine train station, but the IoA side is kind of generic.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018 4:40 PM

True. I was there on a slow-ish day in February and the train was a walkon. But boyhowdy, as I walked past those miles of queue that I’m sure get full use on many days I about died.
I did both trips and the only station I really remember was the Studios side. Maybe it will get some kind of makeover now that Dragons is gone and a new dark ride building will be back there somewhere.

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