SeaWorld, parent company of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, announces companywide layoffs

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, announced it would lay off more than 300 employees in a cost restructuring effort aimed at saving $50 million by the end of 2015, the company announced.

Fred Jacobs, a SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., spokesman, said the 300 employees let go would be across the company, which includes several theme parks including SeaWorld in Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and other parks.

Jacobs declined to say how many employees of Busch Gardens Williamsburg were affected. "I'm not at liberty to say," Jacobs said, in an email to the Virginia Gazette. 

In its restructuring, SeaWorld is centralizing some operations with the intent to reduce duplication. The company says it's offering severance benefits to laid off employees.

"In order to achieve the goals of our business realignment, we regret that some positions will necessarily be eliminated. However, our cost savings effort is part of a broader program to position us for long-term growth," SeaWorld's Jim Atchison said in the company news release.

On Thursday, Atchison announced he would step down as SeaWorld president and CEO effective Jan. 15. Board Chairman David F. D'Alessandro would serve as interim chief executive and Atchison would become vice chairman of the board, according to a news release.

Attendance has dropped at SeaWorld's parks after the movie release of "Blackfish," a documentary that focus on killer whales in captivity, including the death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau.

In its third-quarter earnings report, SeaWorld attributed a 5.6 percent drop in attendance, and a 28 percent drop in profit, to "negative media attention" and increased competition, particularly in Florida.

TidewaterBiz reporter Tara Bozick contributed to this report.


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