Thursday, March 19, 2015

SeaWorld Entertainment Names Surprising New CEO

After an extensive search, SeaWorld Entertainment has named Joel Manby as the company's new President and CEO, effective April 7th, 2015.

The company has been searching for a new leader for months now, after Jim Atchison stepped down from the role as the year began.  The company has had a tough two years, seeing significant decreases in both revenue and attendance at its marine themed properties.

The news of Joel Manby's new role at the company's parks - which include the SeaWorld, Aquatica, Sesame Place and Busch Gardens brands - is significant.  Really significant if you ask me.

Mr. Manby comes to SeaWorld Entertainment from Herschend Enterprises, where he was the President and CEO.  Herschend's parks include gems like Dollywood and Silver Dollar City, but also a plethora of other attractions including water parks, aquariums, dinner shows and resorts - 26 in all.  All of the company's attractions are known for their attention to detail, cohesive themes, and impressive customer service.

The building blocks of Herschend's expansion and success are a credit to Mr. Manby's leadership - something that SeaWorld desperately needs at this time.  To say that good things are on the way for the parks is probably a great understatement at the moment.

On the news, Mr Manby offered that he is "honored to be selected as SeaWorld Entertainment's new CEO. This Company has tremendous brands, and for more than 50 years, families have come to our parks to learn about animals, have fun and be entertained.  We are known for our exceptional operations and world-class animal care.  My job is to build on that foundation while consistently improving and innovating in a competitive environment.  I look forward to working with our more than 23,000 team members through the challenges ahead."

I would expect to start to see positive changes in the company's parks start soon after Mr. Manby takes over, though I wouldn't expect to really see his influence until 2016 or later.  Much as Matt Ouimet's positive changes at Cedar Fair permeated the organization after several seasons, I expect a similar ramp-up to take place at the SeaWorld Entertainment parks.  Good things on the horizon!