Amid a storm of rising backlash over SeaWorld's treatment of its captive orca whales, CEO Jim Atchison is stepping down.
Atchison will serve as vice chairman of the board and chairman of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, as well as a consultant to the company. In the same statement, SeaWorld also announced major plans for corporate restructuring, which will result in the elimination of positions within the company.
A spokesperson for SeaWorld would not say whether Atchison's decision was voluntary, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
A statement released by the company says that David D'Alessandro, the company's chairman, will step in as CEO until another candidate is chosen. SeaWorld detailed a restructuring program across its entire 11-park enterprise:
This effort will centralize some operations, reduce duplication of functions and increase efficiencies and accelerate execution. The restructuring will result in the loss of some positions, and the Company will offer severance benefits to those impacted.
"In order to achieve the goals of our business realignment, we regret that some positions will necessarily be eliminated," Atchison said in a statement. "However, our cost savings effort is part of a broader program to position us for long term growth."
The move comes amid a time of financial crisis for the company. On Wednesday, the SeaWorld's stock hit a new all-time low, dropping below $16 per share for the first time since its April 2013 initial public offering. Its market CAP has fallen by over $1 billion, and its stock has dropped over 50 percent since that time.
The backlash created by the documentary "Blackfish" likely contributed to the company's nosedive. The film revealed disturbing animal care practices at the park, including safety risks for trainers as well as psychosis, inbreeding and physical injuries among the whales.
SeaWorld has not responded to The Dodo's request for more information about Atchison's departure.