After overseeing one of SeaWorld Entertainment’s best years in recent memory, former interim CEO John Reilly is leaving, the company announced Tuesday.
After taking from CEO Joel Manby in February 2018, Reilly’s tenure as interim CEO included 8.6 percent increases in both attendance and revenue. A net loss of more than $202 million in 2017 was flipped to net income of $44.8 million in 2018. It was the Orlando-based company’s first 12-month period of positive financial results since the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” cast doubt on the park chain’s treatment and use of captive killer whales.
Those results didn’t earn Reilly the CEO title on a permanent basis. The company instead went with an outside hire, bringing in former Carnival Cruise executive Gus Antorcha in February.
“We thank John for his contributions during his 34-year tenure at SeaWorld and wish him the best going forward,” Antorcha said in a press release. “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. I am excited about the many opportunities we have to create meaningful additional value.”
After Antorcha was hired, Reilly was named chief operating officer, with board chairman Yoshikazu Maruyama saying the two would work together “to drive operational excellence across the company.”
The press release offered no explanation for Reilly’s sudden departure. SeaWorld did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Reilly’s departure will end an association that dates back to his teenage years, when he got a job selling popcorn at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia. He later served stints as park president in Williamsburg and SeaWorld San Diego before becoming the parent company’s chief parks operating officer in April 2016.
He’ll get to witness one last big opening before he leaves on March 31, as SeaWorld Orlando will open its new Sesame Street area on March 27.