SeaWorld announced the departure of Chief Operations Officer and former interim CEO John Reilly after the stock market closed on Tuesday.
“We thank John for his contributions during his 34-year tenure at SeaWorld and wish him the best going forward,” said Gus Antorcha, the Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. “We are encouraged by the new energy at the company and the results we are delivering by executing on our strategy of optimizing pricing, improving marketing and communications, introducing new guest experiences and driving capital and cost efficiencies.”
Reilly became the interim CEO of SeaWorld following the departure of Joel Manby, and brought the company through a great 2018, the first year of major gains in attendance since the fallout from the Blackfish film. While many believed that Reilly would be chosen for the permanent CEO position, it turned out to not be the case. In February, it was announced that Gus Antorcha would be the new CEO.
Many are speculating that not getting the CEO position is what caused Reilly to leave, but the company hasn’t publicly commented about Reilly’s reason for stepping down. What is interesting though, is the close timing of Reilly’s departure and the beginning of Six Flags’ search for a new CEO. Perhaps Reilly is eyeing the CEO position of another company.
We wish John all the best for his future endeavors. It is a shame to see him leave the company as his passion and dedication for inspiring park guests to care about and protect the world we share were clearly evident. Reilly got his first job selling popcorn at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and climbed the ladder to become the park president of the Williamsburg park as well as SeaWorld San Diego. In 2016, he was tapped to be the Chief Parks Operations Officer and in 2018 was chosen to lead the company as interim CEO. All in all, he has worked for the company for 34 years.
It will be interesting to see how SeaWorld’s strategy changes as a result of Reilly’s departure. One of the major changes Reilly made was adding a new attraction to every park, every year. While we won’t see any major changes at least in the next couple of years, it is very possible SeaWorld’s long-term strategy may change based on what happens in the near future.
All eyes are now on Gus Antorcha and the critical summertime season. Quarter 1 attendance and revenue will most likely be down due to the late timing of the Easter holiday, but Quarter 2 will set the tone for the year, and all signs are pointing to another year of attendance and revenue increases. However, John Reilly’s expertise and down-to-earth personality will definitely be missed.