SeaWorld Entertainment names former Carnival Cruise Line exec Gustavo Antorcha as CEO

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

A year after its chief executive resigned, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. on Tuesday named Gustavo Antorcha, a top executive with Carnival Cruise Line, as the Orlando, Fla., company’s new CEO. Interim CEO John Reilly was named chief operating officer for the theme park company.

Read more from The LA Times.

Jeff's avatar

I've never been on Carnival, but their reputation is pretty horrible. I hope that's not indicative of what we'll see here.

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Jeff said:

I've never been on Carnival, but their reputation is pretty horrible. I hope that's not indicative of what we'll see here.

What you hear about Carnival's reputation I'd consider the same to how "everyone" thinks Taco Bell makes you run to the bathroom. Urban legend.

I've done two cruises, both with Carnival, and had a good time. We're talking about doing a third short cruise out to the Bahamas in the fall and I looked at other lines and they are all 2x-3x as much for the same trip. So we'll be doing Carnival again. No complaints.

That being said.. going from working with a cruise line to a theme park chain is quite a move. Are they trying to say that cruise ships are floating theme parks?

Also does this mean that they are not selling? I half-thought the delay in picking a permanent CEO was because they wouldn't need one soon.

Jeff's avatar

I don't think ships floating around without power or massive fights breaking out are urban legends.

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Lord Gonchar's avatar

jglonek83 said:
Are they trying to say that cruise ships are floating theme parks?

Not exactly.

We used to talk a lot around here about how theme parks are actually in the hospitality industry and have much in common with hotels, etc. I'd say a cruise ship falls into this area, the cruise ships do have an element of entertainment about them, which might make them an even closer match.

Seems like a reasonable move.

Vater's avatar

jglonek83 said:

I've done two cruises, both with Carnival, and had a good time.

Same. Both were week-long Caribbean cruises; my honeymoon in 2004 and then again the following year with mutual friends. Both were outstanding, although I can't really compare my experiences with any of the other lines.

I'm interested in what the (professional) analysts will say about this move, but I found this news release quote interesting:

“SeaWorld has an irreplaceable portfolio of incredibly valuable assets and brands and provides guests with highly differentiated and inspiring experiences. The organization has an outstanding group of dedicated employees who, together, have a clear focus on improving execution, enhancing the guest experience and growing revenue, profitability and free cash flow. I look forward to working with this talented group to enhance and accelerate these efforts and to help realize the full potential of this business for all stakeholders.

So obviously this is crafted to speak to investors but it is striking how much it sounds like a sales pitch rather than a new strategic vision. Plus, before Carnival he was at Boston Consulting Group. My uneducated guess is his role is to butter up the pig before sending it off to market.

As to the other question of whether an executive from a cruise line can run a theme park, see also: Matt Ouimet.

Jeff's avatar

Matt also ran Disneyland, (also DVC and Starwood), so there is that. But while on the subject of Disney, DCL is part of the "parks and resorts" division, so that company at least considers them all related.

No matter who is in that position, I'm kind of skeptical that the board is really supporting any leadership. I don't think Manby was ever really truly supported, and the CIO from Six Flags only lasted a few weeks. That implies a lot of micromanagement by the board.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

You are correct - Ouimet was a Disney parks guy long before running the cruises, but my point remains: If a theme park guy can run a cruise, a cruise guy can run a theme park.

I also agree the board has been keeping their leaders on tight leashes, and my sense is they feel they don't have the luxury of time for any of these execs to be successful. As a publicly traded company who has taken a long beating, they need to show some immediate results.

Compare this to Disney and the streaming platform. Iger is actively telling his board this thing thing is going to be a huge money loser for a long time, and the board is supporting him because he has proven himself so capable (and made their shareholders boatloads of cash). So they're giving him the runway to make a long-term investment.

And therein lies the rub. SeaWorld doesn't have the elbow room to make long-term bets. Their investors are tired of waiting to get paid. They need short-term wins, but those will never satisfy because they're in such a hole. All this adds to my sense the company isn't set up to turn things around fast enough. I'm worried about them.

Jeff's avatar

I don't think they need to show "immediate results." Chasing quarterly results is a losing game. They've already stopped the bleeding and reversed the slide in terms of stock price (in a down market no less... up 60% against indexes that have been essentially flat in the last year), and that's under interim leadership. The board just needs to get out of the way.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

I agree chasing short-term gains is a loser, but I don't see signs they are moving away from that. Hopefully they heed your advice.

What I find most disturbing is that this search lasted as long as it did.

There's nothing that says an executive from one industry can't be successful in another. Alan Mullally came from Boeing and was great at Ford. Meg Whitman has done everything from consumer products to eBay. And not like cruises versus theme parks are like comparing apples to skyscrapers.

I've been on one Royal Caribbean cruise and two on Carnival. My wife and kid have been on a few Carnival cruises without me. We had a great time on all 3 cruises. Carnival is a little more of a value line and you have to go in expecting that. Our experience has been that the longer cruises (7 night) tend to attract a crowd that is a little more well-behaved. I found the food quality and dining room service to be about equal between the 2 lines with the lounge and bar scene being a little better on RC.

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