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SeaWorld CEO out; Company announces layoffs

SeaWorld announces Jim Atchison being replaced, new restructuring program

Two men were arrested after breaking into SeaWorld overnight. They were arrested around 2 a.m. Wednesday while eating stolen ice cream on park property.
Two men were arrested after breaking into SeaWorld overnight. They were arrested around 2 a.m. Wednesday while eating stolen ice cream on park property.

ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld announced on Thursday that CEO Jim Atchison is being replaced, and layoffs are expected.

According to a release, Chairman David F. D'Alessandro will serve as the company's interim CEO until the board of directors selects a permanent successor to Atchison, effective in January 2015.

Atchison will serve as vice chairman of the board, oversee the company's conservation fund and will also be a consultant, officials said.

The reason for Atchison stepping down has not been released, but the company's stock has lost more than half its value in the recent months.

Last month, Atchison announced the company was going to be cutting $50 million a year in expenses. The company announced Thursday a restructuring program across its 11-park enterprise that will centralize some operations, reduce duplication of functions and increase efficiencies and accelerate execution, the release stated.

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

It's not clear where the layoffs will occur and if the Orlando park will be affected. SeaWorld officials told Local 6 they could not provide additional details.

Atchison started with SeaWorld in 1985 as a parking lot attendant at Busch Gardens. He became CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment in 2009 and during his time as CEO, Atchison helped take the company public and steered it through the controversy surrounding the "Blackfish" documentary.

As part of Atchison's severance, he will receive two years salary and a lump sum payment of nearly $2.5 million.

This story comes courtesy our sister station in Orlando, WKMG.