The current chairman of the board, David D'Alessandro, has taken over as interim CEO while the board looks for someone to fill the spot. D'Alessandro previously served as chairman, president and chief executive officer of an insurance company.
The other eight board members include the chief financial officer of a toy company, the former co-CEO of a communications agency and three employees of the Blackstone Group L.P., the massive private equity group that took SeaWorld public in April 2013. They each receive yearly fees for serving on the board, ranging from $60,000 to $210,000. None of the directors has a degree or experience in conservation, biology or zoological science.
The other sector of SeaWorld's leadership comprises the nine people that make up its management team (a separate entity than the board of directors). The team includes the chief operating officer, the chief financial officer, accountants and lawyers.
D'Alessandro serves on both the board of directors and the management team, bringing the total number of SeaWorld's executive leaders to 17. The only person close to being a scientist is the company's Chief Zoological Officer, Brad Andrews, who holds a bachelor's degree of Science from St. Mary's College. Andrews is not on the board of directors.
As a point of comparison, the board of directors for the World Wildlife Fund includes seven members with PhDs in environmental or scientific fields, in addition to other top academics. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which owns the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium, has a tropical biologist as its CEO, as well as five PhDs among its executive officers.
Seaworld, a for-profit institution - unlike the non-profit organizations above - has continued to assert that it is "one of the world's most respected zoological institutions."
Without one person in leadership who can claim a background in zoology, conservation, or even any of the sciences, that claim rings hollow.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. has not responded to The Dodo's requests for comment.