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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  Nyse  >  SeaWorld Entertainment Inc    SEAS

SEAWORLD ENTERTAINMENT INC (SEAS)
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SeaWorld Entertainment : CEO Joel Manby unexpectedly departs from struggling company

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02/28/2018 | 03:53am CEST

Feb. 27--SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby, who promised a rebound but struggled to overcome declining attendance, is leaving the company after less than three years on the job.

"I didn't see that coming," said Tuna Amobi, a SeaWorld analyst with CFRA Research. "The timing was something that certainly caught me off guard."

The leadership change was announced Tuesday, as the company announced fourth-quarter earnings -- including an attendance drop of nearly 3 percent year-over-year. Attendance for all of 2017 dropped to 20.8 million, down 5.5 percent year-over-year.

SeaWorld's total revenues fell to $1.26 billion, a 6 percent drop from the prior year.

Some who follow the theme park industry acknowledged Manby was brought in at a particularly challenging time for SeaWorld but made some improvements given the hand he'd been dealt.

"You can't turn the Titanic around in 2 1/2 years," said Duncan Dickson, an associate professor at University of Central Florida'sRosen College of Hospitality Management and a former Disney executive.

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

Former SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby was photographed in April 2016 when he spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about the company's struggles.

Former SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby was photographed in April 2016 when he spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about the company's struggles. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Manby took over as SeaWorld's CEO in April 2015. Under his leadership, the company announced in 2016 it would end killer-whale breeding. Manby called phasing out SeaWorld's signature attraction a "gut-wrenching" decision.

Chief Parks Operations Officer John T. Reilly, 49, will serve as interim CEO. Reilly's career includes working as park president of SeaWorld San Diego from 2010 until April 2016. Reilly will get paid $375,000 in base salary, plus stock compensation, according to Tuesday's SEC filing.

SeaWorld executives did not depart from Manby's business plan as they briefed investors Tuesday.

During a call with shareholders, Reilly said he believes in what Manby had started. He kept a positive tone as he highlighted several ongoing initiatives, such as opening new rides and using a marketing campaign to tell about the company's conservation efforts as it faces continued criticism over its handling of animals.

Attendance in Orlando, including season passes at the parks, is up so far this year.

As SeaWorld looks to replace Manby, the company will seek someone who has theme-park or leisure-industry experience and also has a "focus on maximizing shareholder value," said Yoshikazu Maruyama, the chairman of the board of directors who will step in as interim executive chairman.

Reilly, who has been with the company for 32 years, is a candidate for the top post, Maruyama added.

When an investor pushed back about selling the company during the conference call, Maruyama declined to comment on "rumors or speculation" about a transaction but went on to elaborate. "The voice of shareholders as well as the drive to maximize shareholder value is louder than ever in the board room," he said.

However, Amobi, the analyst, said it would be challenging for SeaWorld to find a "wide field of suitors" with its unique challenges.

Manby, whose compensation was $5.39 million last year, is eligible for severance benefits; the amount was not detailed in an SEC filing. Manby and Reilly would not be available for further comment Tuesday, SeaWorld spokesman Travis Claytor said.

Part of SeaWorld's strategy is investing money in its parks. In Orlando, SeaWorld will open raft ride Infinity Falls this year and water park Aquatica will open water slide Ray Rush. No opening dates were given Tuesday. It's also planning a Sesame Street-based attraction at SeaWorld Orlando.

But SeaWorld faces the challenge of battling for visitors with Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, which are both expanding and adding new attractions. Coming off attendance records last quarter, Disney will open Toy Story Land on June 30 at Hollywood Studios and looks to debut Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2019. Meanwhile, Universal has added a nighttime show at the Hogwarts Castle in the popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter and will open a new ride based on the Fast & Furious film franchise later this year.

"They're not in a position now to compete with Universal and Disney," Dickson said of SeaWorld. "They don't have the intellectual properties, like Star Wars and Harry Potter."

SeaWorld is also facing a criminal investigation. Last year, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed the theme-park company as part of a investigation into "disclosures and public statements" that were made by company leaders over the impact of "Blackfish," a 2013 documentary that told about the death of a SeaWorld trainer and shed animal captivity in a negative light.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which became a SeaWorld shareholder in 2013, continues to call for SeaWorld to end all its breeding programs and release its animals.

"The company tries to ignore mounting public pressure to change its ways, while its earnings plummet ... " PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement Tuesday.

SeaWorld has in recent months expressed an ongoing commitment to animal-rescue and education efforts while saying it plans to rely less on animals to entertain parkgoers.

grusson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5470; Twitter, @GabrielleRusson

CAPTION

The leadership change was announced Tuesday after the company has struggled with declining revenue and public perception issues amid backlash from the anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish."

The leadership change was announced Tuesday after the company has struggled with declining revenue and public perception issues amid backlash from the anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish."

CAPTION

The leadership change was announced Tuesday after the company has struggled with declining revenue and public perception issues amid backlash from the anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish."

The leadership change was announced Tuesday after the company has struggled with declining revenue and public perception issues amid backlash from the anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish."

CAPTION

A wealthy tequila maker, his wife, two nonprofits and child-welfare workers are bringing a new system to match Florida's foster kids with prospective forever families. It's not quite eHarmony for adoption, but it's close.

A wealthy tequila maker, his wife, two nonprofits and child-welfare workers are bringing a new system to match Florida's foster kids with prospective forever families. It's not quite eHarmony for adoption, but it's close.

CAPTION

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, two American bald eagles rebuild a nest at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, between mid-September 2017 and January 2018.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, two American bald eagles rebuild a nest at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, between mid-September 2017 and January 2018.

CAPTION

Nearly two years after 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub, the widow of the shooter will go to trial Thursday. The case hinges on one question: Did Noor Salman know what her husband, Omar Mateen, was going to do?

Nearly two years after 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub, the widow of the shooter will go to trial Thursday. The case hinges on one question: Did Noor Salman know what her husband, Omar Mateen, was going to do?

CAPTION

Curry Ford Road in south Orlando will have a temporary makeover, reducing car lanes and opening bike lanes.

Curry Ford Road in south Orlando will have a temporary makeover, reducing car lanes and opening bike lanes.

A couple at SeaWorld devoted to taking care of birds -- and each other »

___

(c)2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News

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Financials ($)
Sales 2018 1 342 M
EBIT 2018 139 M
Net income 2018 34,5 M
Debt 2018 1 462 M
Yield 2018 -
P/E ratio 2018 74,48
P/E ratio 2019 33,98
EV / Sales 2018 3,09x
EV / Sales 2019 2,95x
Capitalization 2 689 M
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Technical analysis trends SEAWORLD ENTERTAINMENT INC
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Mean consensus HOLD
Number of Analysts 13
Average target price 24,9 $
Spread / Average Target -19%
EPS Revisions
Managers
NameTitle
John T. Reilly Chief Executive & Parks Operations Officer
Yoshikazu Maruyama Executive Chairman
Marc Gregory Swanson Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer
Deborah M. Thomas Independent Director
William Gray Independent Director
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