SeaWorld Entertainment announced today that they would be entering an agreement with the Zhonghong Group to help develop strategic growth opportunities in the leisure, tourism and culture industries. Zhonghong Group has entered an agreement to acquire about 21% equity from Blackstone.
Zhonghong Group has entered into a stockholders agreement with SeaWorld and, effective upon closing of the transaction, SeaWorld will increase the size of its Board to 11 and Zhonghong Group executives Yoshikazu Maruyama, President of Zhonghong Group’s American operation, and Yongli Wang, Chief Strategy Officer of Zhonghong Group, will join the SeaWorld Board providing long-term shareholder perspectives and substantive expertise in global themed entertainment and business development in China.
“Zhonghong Group is making a significant, long-term investment in SeaWorld, reflecting their appreciation of the strength of our brand, our potential to grow the company and a shared commitment to protect wildlife and the environment,” said Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “Zhonghong Group has a strong track record of performance in the leisure and travel industries, and a solid management team with valuable experience in theme parks, family entertainment, and real estate development in Asia.”
“We are delighted to engage with SeaWorld to bring this iconic, world-class family entertainment brand to China. SeaWorld’s commitment to inspiring guests to protect animals and our oceans is increasingly relevant to people all around the world,” said Yoshikazu Maruyama, President of Zhonghong Group’s American operation.
“Zhonghong Group hopes to contribute our experience and resources in global tourism and project development to enhance long-term value to all of SeaWorld’s shareholders. We look forward to a highly collaborative relationship and to serve as a key partner to grow its business and further its mission.”
The move will see SeaWorld helping Zhonghong Group with concept development and design of theme parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers to be developed and operated by Zhonghong Holding, including exclusive rights in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
It also means that Blackstone should be just about out of SeaWorld, as they’ve been slowly getting rid of shares over the past few years. This could spell good news for the park side of things in the states, as more investment opportunities could be presented.
The following is just speculation. We are only making guesses based on what other companies have done. There are no rumors, or knowledge about this.
Moving forward in the next few weeks and months, it would not be surprising to see some shake ups within the company. After such a large acquisition by an outside company, it’s not unusual to see layoffs of non-essential roles. That means more layoffs could happen. We would also not be surprised to see other major roles shifting as well. With such shake ups, we may even see CEO Joel Manby step down from his position with the company, though he could stay on as part of the board. Other shake ups in upper management could happen as well. It’s not uncommon for a company to restructure management after a large portion of the company changes hands, and many of the board members are replaced. This is all speculation at this point, so anything could happen, or may not happen.
SeaWorld just reported their fourth quarter attendance for 2016. The company was down in attendance and profits from 2015. The company is hoping that big changes in San Diego and San Antonio will boost attendance for 2017. The company has ended traditional Orca Shows in San Diego, and will open a more educational “Orca Encounter” later this summer. The show will feature natural behaviors, environments and a VR Orca experience. San Antonio will be opening an all new jet-ski themed coaster that will launch riders over the water in a Sea Rescie mission to save animals.
With the new partnership and investors, hopefully SeaWorld can gain the support needed to bring the company back into profitability and keep inspiring guests to help animals in the world around them.