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Economy

SeaWorld CEO To Step Down As Park Attendance Drops

Jim Atchison, right, President & CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, speaks during a news conference at the killer whale underwater viewing area of SeaWorld in Orlando.
Associated Press
Jim Atchison, right, President & CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, speaks during a news conference at the killer whale underwater viewing area of SeaWorld in Orlando.

SeaWorld announced Thursday that its CEO is stepping down as head of the company and named its chairman as interim leader.

Jim Atchison has served as CEO and president of the theme park company since 2009. SeaWorld said he will become vice chairman. Chairman David D'Alessandro will take over as interim CEO in January.

Attendance is dropping at the Orlando, Florida-based company's theme parks. It has been battling negative publicity surrounding its treatment of killer whales following the documentary "Blackfish" that suggested its treatment of the animals may have led to the death of trainers. SeaWorld vehemently denies the allegations.

SeaWorld Entertainments stock has also been battered in recent months, defying a general increase in the financial markets.

The company said that it will eliminate an unspecified number of jobs as it cuts costs. The restructuring will affect all 11 parks run by the company and is aimed at saving $50 million this year and next, SeaWorld said.

The company did not reveal how many San Diego positions will be affected.

"In order to achieve the goals of our business realignment, we regret that some positions will necessarily be eliminated," Atchison said. "However, our cost savings effort is part of a broader program to position us for long term growth."

SeaWorld Entertainment stock closed at $16.09 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. It hovered around $35 as recently as April.

Besides San Diego, the company runs SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Antonio, Busch Gardens in Tampa and Williamsburg, Va., and various water parks.