SeaWorld CEO Gus Antorcha resigns less than a year into the job

Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2019 1:48 PM | Contributed by BrettV

With impressive recent financial reports, including triple-digit net income and double-digit improvements in adjusted earnings, it looked like SeaWorld’s troubled waters were behind the Orlando-based theme park chain. But that all changed Monday when CEO Gus Antorcha, who had only been on the job for seven months, abruptly resigned.

Read more from Orlando Weekly.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019 1:53 PM

OK, so this is officially just a horrible board. This kind of executive churn isn't normal. The word on the street was that Manby was heavily limited and not supported by the board, and at this point I believe it.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019 7:36 PM

There is a problem when GMs have to get approval from the chairman of the board on how to operate their park. Didn’t think it could get worse than Kinzel! Scott Ross is singlehandedly driving all the remaining good people out of the org.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 8:24 AM

I know Cedar Fair is not really in the position to acquire an entire chain, but this would be such a great acquisition for them. Having Cedar Fair in the Florida markets would be outstanding, and I really feel at this point the entire board and exec team needs to go.

After reading that article there couldn't be a better time for a strong operator to come in and just take over- especially since it sounds like most of the key leaders who helped drive the brand over the last twenty years are gone. I know it's unlikely- but a Cedar Fair ownership would do wonders, it's likely going to happen anyway- I don't see how the chain doesn't get bought up in the next six months.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 10:42 AM

Maybe SEAS would be willing to parcel out their holdings. While CF may not be in the position to take all the parks, they might be interested in the Busch Gardens family. Then again, BGW is just down the road from KD, so that might change their opinion.

At this point, I don't know that anyone would be interested in the Sea World parks, simply to keep their names out of the Blackfish/PITA minds.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 10:54 AM

Kings Island is just down the road from Cedar Point and that seems to be working out. For us lucky Ohioans, anyway.
I seem to remember that (in some year past and some administration ago) CF basically rid themselves of large animal attractions. In the meantime there’s been a sort of resurgence in smaller attractions like petting farms and horse rides, but no more dolphin shows, aquariums, or the like.
And the Sea World/Busch parks are not only full of rides, but continue to maintain a huge focus on animal conservancy, health, and education. I’m not sure CF’s plate is big enough for all that, or that they’d want to.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 12:08 PM

It's a strange world, because Cedar Fair has a market cap that's almost 50% more than SeaWorld's, but revenue and income are actually pretty close (CF is higher). I don't think there's any world where they could find $2 billion to acquire it.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 12:36 PM

Jeff- I know it was a different time (wow has it really been over 13 years?!?) but how did CF pay for the Paramount purchase?

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 2:43 PM

RCMAC said:

Kings Island is just down the road from Cedar Point and that seems to be working out. For us lucky Ohioans, anyway.

KI and CP are about 4 hours away from each other. KD and BGW are an hour apart. KI/CP aren't marketing to the same area; KD and BGW are.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 3:29 PM

ShaneDenmark said:

how did CF pay for the Paramount purchase?

a boatload of debt that almost brought the combined entity to ruin. Not saying it wasn’t a good choice in the long run, but at the time it was huge burden.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 3:41 PM

yawetag- Sure they are. I live in Columbus. We see lots of marketing for both parks. And let’s include Toledo, Indy, western Pa, etc.
I think we should consider population density- 4 hours in Ohio just might equal 1 hour in the Richmond/Hampton Roads area. And BGW already markets so far out and away from their local area. Namely, tourists from all over the country who might tack on the park as part of their Williamsburg experience. I think both parks could exist and still thrive under the same umbrella. Season pass sales alone would benefit locals.
And not to defend too strongly because it will never happen. But the proximity to another park would be the least of the reasons. They both do fine right now, right? It doesn’t matter who owns the places.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 3:49 PM

We debated the Future of SEAS during the Blackfish and Manby era, and I think we’re still back to square one. The Busch/Sesame/water parks are the most desirable from a carve out, while the SW parks are still at the beginning of their eventual transition away from whales and dolphins. Unfortunately the constant layoffs and brain drain (as mentioned above) surely have reached the point where all that’s left is the deadwood that couldn’t extricate themselves to the bigger players down the street. How much has that imperiled the turnaround? Given the revolving C-Suite doors and the natural upheaval that creates, you’ve got to be shaking your heads at their ability to execute going forward.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019 4:02 PM

As for the comparison to CP and KI, most of their overlapping markets don’t involve driving past one to get to the other. That has always been an interesting conundrum for me, the percentage of BGW visitors who had to essentially drive longer and possibly right past KD on their way to the park.

And while you are correct that CF could increase season pass sales, it would be at the cost of a high % of cannibalization. I’d argue almost a worst case scenario of SWO and GL levels of cannibalization.

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Wednesday, September 18, 2019 4:04 PM
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Thursday, September 19, 2019 7:49 AM

RCMAC said:

And not to defend too strongly because it will never happen. But the proximity to another park would be the least of the reasons. They both do fine right now, right? It doesn’t matter who owns the places.

With a season pass and two excellent parks within an hour of each other, it will matter a lot.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 7:59 AM

yawetag said:

KD and BGW are an hour apart. KI/CP aren't marketing to the same area; KD and BGW are.

Well DUH!!! They would buy it to close it down!!!

(Someone had to say it)

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 8:21 AM

You guys talk about CF buying them out, I wish the Busch family would buy them back, they knew how to run them but I know it’s a fantasy.

I think that SEAs needs to go private again, and needs a good operator who can run parks like this. If only there was an operator who ran a lot of nearly year round parks who were heavily focused on shows and festivals and had experience with animals...

The dream company to take over SEAs is the Hershunds family of SDC/Dollywood fame but I doubt they have the capital. I would also fear the future of Howl-o-Scream in this situation due to their strong Christian background.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 8:51 AM

^ Remember, that when the Busch Family owned the parks it was more of a hobby and while they cared about the bottom line as far as the financials were concerned, there was a ton of $$ propping them up so if the parks were successful, great, if they weren't, great. Seriously- the amount of money the parks produced were minuscule compared to the core business of all American beer. It was beer that made the Busch Family parks successful in the 80's and 90's.

Cedar Fair wouldn't shy away from the chain because of KD and BGW. Didn't they cross promote both properties a few years ago with a ticket good at both parks? It's certainly unfair to use Geauga Lake as an example, as SFWoA was doomed the moment they connected the parks- Six Flags was struggling with Aurora before Cedar Fair showed up.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 9:11 AM

The Busch family has tried to sell Grant's Farm in St. Louis, not to mention the fighting within the family. I don't think they'll want to get back into the zoological/amusement market.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 9:59 AM

Tilt-A-Whirl said:

there was a ton of $$ propping them up so if the parks were successful, great, if they weren't, great.

You make a good point, but run completely off the rails with this. Convincing yourself that a multi-billion corporation doesn't care if part of their business is successful is ridiculous.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019 11:19 AM

It's not entirely incorrect. Before InBev, the parks had a lot of autonomy and not a lot of pressure beyond "don't screw it up or lose money." Culturally, it was a passion project for a lot of people, which is what made it great.

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