SAN DIEGO — A year after its former chief executive resigned, SeaWorld on Tuesday named Gustavo (Gus) Antorcha, a top executive with Carnival Cruise Lines, as the Orlando, Fla.-based company’s new CEO.
Interim CEO John Reilly, a former president of the San Diego park and who some believed was a strong contender for the job, was named chief operating officer for the theme park company. The announcement, the company said, followed a thorough search process led by a special committee of the board of directors.
“We are thrilled to welcome Gus to the SeaWorld team,” said Yoshikazu Maruyama, chairman of the board of directors. “Gus is a proven leader with broad experiences in the travel and leisure industries. His unique combination of strategy, operations and leadership skills make him the right person to lead SeaWorld through its next phase of growth.
“Gus helped deliver strong financial results and improved guest satisfaction at Carnival by leading efforts to optimize pricing, improve onboard marketing and communications, introduce new guest experiences and drive capital and cost efficiencies — all core to SeaWorld’s current strategy.”
Antorcha, most recently chief operating officer with Carnival, has been with the cruise line for more than eight years. Before joining Carnival, he was a partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, a global strategy and management consulting busines, where he helped clients with their operational strategies in the travel and leisure industries.
Said Antorcha, “I am excited to join the SeaWorld team … 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.
Antorcha replaces Joel Manby, who stepped down last year after failing to deliver a rebound in sliding attendance and revenues that have dogged the company years after the release of the anti-animal captivity film “Blackfish.” Over the last year, though, the company has seen a significant upsurge in revenues and visitation as it continues to invest more money in theme park attractions, including what will be the third new roller coaster at the San Diego park by next year.
Wall Street analyst James Hardiman said he was not surprised by the choice, although he acknowledged Reilly had been in the running for the chief executive post. The company’s stock price has nearly doubled during the time has led the company.
“I thought he was a contender but it’s not shocking that he didn’t get it,” Hardiman said.
He added that from a business perspective, the cruise and theme park industries are not all that dissimilar. He noted, for example, that Matt Ouimet, the former CEO of Cedar Park, which operates 11 theme parks, had at one time been a president of Disney Cruise Line.
“With the cruise business and amusement park business, you’re just trying to maximize what you can get for the capacity available to you in the business you’re in,” Hardiman said.
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