Shareholders on Wednesday voted against the re-election of Charmain David D’Alessandro, after shareholders pretty much revolted against a bonus and incentive payout. D’Alessandro received more “withhold” votes than “for” votes at the annual meeting on Wednesday. The vote means that D’Allessandro is essentially out of the position, and has to resign, though the vote has not been finalized as of publishing. After that, the board has 90 days to either accept or deny the resignation.
“The board will continue to proceed in the best interest of shareholders following this year’s annual meeting,” Orlando, Florida-based SeaWorld said in a statement to Reuters.
The news has seemingly not gone unnoticed on Wall Street, as stocks took a last minute uptick during the afternoon hours. As of close of business today, SeaWorld stock shot up $1.07 for a price of $17.07. That price went up in the hours after the decision was voted on.
This has been a topsy turvy year for SeaWorld, as the park has had a steady slump in earnings and attendance, with attendance being down 15% in the first quarter this year, versus last year. The company has also undergone a change of ownership, as China’s Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co Ltd agreed to buy Blackstone Group’s 21 percent stake in the theme park operator for $23 per share, or $429 million. This also gave the company a large control over the board.
The big question is now, What about Manby?
Current CEO Joel Manby was appointed by D’Alessandro, and has not been able to get the company back upright since his appointment in 2015. Mr. Manby has also made some very controversial decisions about the company, including the partnership with animal activist group, Humane Society of the United States, the decision to end all Orca breeding, and the decision to end all theatrical Orca shows by 2019. The moves have angered many long time fans and passholders, and the battle to win those core fans back has been a bit of an uphill battle. The company has also made some very positive moves forward under Manby, including the addition of new attractions, and the announcement of creating onsite resorts, making the parks more competitive with destinations like Disney and Universal theme parks.
However, attractions like SeaWorld San Diego’s Orca Encounter, and Ocean Explorer have garnered some pretty harsh criticisms from the general public and fans alike. While the reason to oust Chairman D’Alessandro comes from a dispute about incentive payouts, you do have to wonder if Manby will be next. It all depends on whether or not the board feels that Mr. Manby is the “best decision for shareholders”, and for SeaWorld.
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