NEW YORK (TheStreet) --Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (SEAS) are higher by 4.04% to $16.74 in pre-market trading on Friday, as the stock gains following yesterday's announcement the company's CEO, Jim Atchison, will be stepping down.
Atchison will be replaced by vice chairman of the board David D'Alessandro, who will act as interim CEO, effective January 15, 2015, until a permanent successor is found.
SeaWorld, an animals for entertainment and theme park company, said Atchison will act as a consultant for the company, and that it will nominate him to serve as chairman of the board for the not-for-profit, independent SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
For over a year Atchison and SeaWorld have been dealing with negative publicity, and a growing change in public opinion regarding keeping marine mammals in captivity. This change was the result of a 2013 documentary called Blackfish, which accuses SeaWorld of mistreating its animals, and placing its workers in dangerous situations.
Blackfish investigates the circumstances that led to the 2010 death of a veteran SeaWorld Orlando trainer, who was killed by one of the company's star attractions, Tilikum, a 12,000 pound bull orca.
Additionally, SeaWorld also announced a restructuring program across its entire 11-park enterprise. The company says "this effort will centralize some operations, reduce duplication of functions and increase efficiencies and accelerate execution."