SeaWorld said Thursday that Jim Atchison, the company’s chief executive since 2009, will step down from his post.
The move comes amid a plummet in SeaWorld’s revenue and attendance, and as the company fields a volley of public criticism for its treatment of killer whales, which was underscored in the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.” The company’s stock tanked in August, dropping 33 percent, and has since declined further, to about $15 per share. Attendance "fell 5.6 percent to 8.4 million in the third quarter from 8.9 million in the same period a year ago," NBC San Diego writes.
Atchison will receive a $2.4 million payout and take a position as vice chairman, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He will also serve as a consultant and advise the company on its international expansion plans and conservation initiatives. Chairman David D’Alessandro will serve as interim CEO until a replacement for Atchison is found.
The company is working to save $50 million in costs by the end of 2015. As part of that initiative, the company has announced a “restructuring program” across its 11 theme parks that “will results in the loss of some positions.” SeaWorld employs about 25,800 workers.