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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Activists Step Up Campaign Against SeaWorld As Attendance Sinks Over Killer Whales (Class Action)

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Activists Step Up Campaign Against SeaWorld
As Attendance Sinks Over Killer Whales

Updated September 28, 2014

Faruqi And Faruqi, LLP Encourages Investors Who Suffered Losses In Excess Of $100,000 Investing In SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (SEAS) To Contact The Firm

Faruqi And Faruqi, LLP, a leading national securities law firm, reminds investors in SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. ("SeaWorld" or the "Company") SEAS to seek the role of lead plaintiff in a federal securities class action lawsuit filed against SeaWorld, certain executives and directors, and the Company's majority shareholder.

A complaint has been filed in the Southern District of California on behalf of all persons who purchased SeaWorld stock pursuant and/or traceable to the Company's Registration Statement and Prospectus (collectively, the "Registration Statement") issued in connection with the Company's initial public offering commenced on or after April 18, 2013 (the "IPO") including open market purchases between April 18, 2013 through August 13, 2014, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint alleges that the Company and its executives violated federal securities laws with respect to its disclosures concerning its business, operations, and prospects.

Specifically, the action alleges that SeaWorld made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose during the Class Period that: (i) the Company had not provided proper care for and had mistreated its Orca population leading to trainer and audience safety issues; (ii) SeaWorld had continued to feature an Orca that had killed and injured numerous trainers; and (iii) the decrease in attendance at its parks was caused by factors other than the improper practices revealed by the documentary film Blackfish.

On August 13, 2014, in its earnings announcement for the second quarter of 2014, the Company disclosed that revenues fell year over year and acknowledged that attendance in the quarter was impacted by media attention regarding proposed legislation in California.

Following this news, the price of SeaWorld's stock declined by $9.25, or over 32%, to close at $18.90 on August 13, 2014.

Request more information now by clicking here: www.faruqilaw.com/SEAS. There is no cost or obligation to you.

Take Action

If you invested in SeaWorld securities pursuant and/or traceable to the Company's Registration Statement issued in connection with the IPO, including open market purchases between April 18, 2013 through August 13, 2014, and would like to discuss your legal rights, visit www.faruqilaw.com/SEAS. You can also contact us by calling Richard Gonnello toll free at 877-247-4292 or at 212-983-9330 or by sending an e-mail to rgonnello@faruqilaw.com. Faruqi And Faruqi, LLP also encourages anyone with information regarding SeaWorld's conduct to contact the firm, including whistleblowers, former employees, shareholders and others.

Faruqi And Faruqi, LLP is a national law firm which represents investors and individuals in class action litigation. The firm is focused on providing exemplary legal services in complex litigation in the areas of securities, shareholder, antitrust and consumer litigation, throughout all phases of litigation.

The firm has an experienced trial team which has achieved significant victories on behalf of the firm's clients. To keep track of the latest securities litigation news, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MergerActivity or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FaruqiLaw.

Attorney Advertising. The law firm responsible for this advertisement is Faruqi And Faruqi, LLP (www.faruqilaw.com). Prior results do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future matter. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your particular case. All communications will be treated in a confidential manner.

369 Lexington Avenue, 10th Floor 
New York, NY 10017 
Attn: Richard Gonnello, Esq. 

Telephone: (877) 247-4292 or (212) 983-9330

NY Law Firm Files Class-Action Suit Against SeaWorld

Updated September 12, 2014

EQUITY ALERT: The Rosen Law Firm Files Securities Class Action Against SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

The Rosen Law Firm announces that it has filed a class action lawsuit against SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. SEAS, -0.91% on behalf of purchasers of the Company's stock in its April 18, 2013, initial public offering or on the open market from April 18, 2013 through August 13, 2014. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for SeaWorld shareholders under the federal securities laws.

To join the SeaWorld class action, go to the website at http://rosenlegal.com/cases-335.html or call Phillip Kim, Esq. or Kevin Chan, Esq. toll-free at 866-767-3653 or email pkim@rosenlegal.com or jstern@rosenlegal.com for information on the class action. The suit is filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

According to the lawsuit, Sea World failed to disclose in its IPO documents that it (a) had improperly cared for and mistreated its Orca population which adversely impacted trainer and audience safety; (b) continued to feature and breed an Orca that had killed and injured numerous trainers; and (c) consequently created material uncertainties and risks existing at the time of IPO that could adversely impact attendance at its family oriented parks. The lawsuit claims that when details of the Company's improper practices were revealed by the documentary film Blackfish, SeaWorld misled investors by claiming the decrease in attendance at its parks was caused by Easter holiday and other factors. The complaint asserts that the decline in attendance was really caused by the mounting negative publicity from the improper practices at SeaWorld that were revealed by the Blackfish film.

On August 13, 2014, the price of SeaWorld Stock dropped by $9.25 per share, or 32.9%. This drop followed SeaWorld's announcement of earnings for the second quarter of 2014, where it revealed that revenues fell year over year and acknowledged for the first time that its earnings difficulties were related to negative publicity it has received in connection with its treatment of animals.

A class action lawsuit has already been filed. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the Court no later than November 10, 2014. If you wish to join the litigation go to http://rosenlegal.com/cases-337.html or to discuss your rights or interests regarding this class action, please contact, Phillip Kim, Esq. or Kevin Chan, Esq. of The Rosen Law Firm toll free at 866-767-3653 or via e-mail at pkim@rosenlegal.com or jstern@rosenlegal.com.

The Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation.

 CONTACT: Laurence Rosen, Esq. Phillip Kim, Esq. Kevin Chan, Esq. The Rosen Law Firm, P.A. 275 Madison Avenue 34th Floor New York, New York 10016 Tel: (212) 686-1060 Toll Free: 1-866-767-3653 Fax: (212) 202-3827 lrosen@rosenlegal.com pkim@rosenlegal.com kchan@rosenlegal.com www.rosenlegal.com
The rough waters for SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) may get worse if a New York City law firm can prove fraud and/or recklessness on the part of SeaWorld, which has the potential to lead to a class-action lawsuit from investors.

The Rosen Law Firm announced it is "investigating potential securities claims against SeaWorld" regarding its recent acknowledgement during a second-quarter earnings call that the negative publicity from the Blackfish film about the marine theme park's treatment of its animals caused attendance to dip.

"SeaWorld had acknowledged for the first time the negative publicity may have had a hit and may have been why the attendance has been flat for now and the past quarters. That was a new admission from them, something they had denied up to this time," said Jonathan Stern, the Rosen Law Firm attorney.

Specifically, the law firm plans to look into whether or not SeaWorld knew the ongoing negative publicity actually was having an impact, but chose to downplay that as a reason for its performance results, which Stern said could be classified as a fraudulent act. "We are looking into whether it's fraud, what did they know, when did they know it and whether they were being reckless," he said, declining to reveal if any investors have expressed interest in pursuing action.

"As a matter of policy, we do not comment on litigation or the threat of litigation," said SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck in an emailed response to a request for comment.

Join Class Action »

The Rosen Law Firm Announces Investigation of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. - SEAS

New York, NY, August 18, 2014.  The Rosen Law Firm, P.A. announces that it is investigating potential securities claims against SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS), an operator of theme parks throughout the United States.

On August 13, 2014, the price of SeaWorld Stock dropped by $9.25 per share, or 32.9%.  This drop followed SeaWorld’s announcement of earnings for the second quarter of 2014, where it revealed that revenues fell year over year and acknowledged for the first time that its earnings difficulties were related to negative publicity it has received in connection with its treatment of animals. 

The Rosen Law Firm is preparing a securities class action lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of SeaWorld common stock to recover their investment losses. If you purchased SeaWorld securities, please visit the website at http://rosenlegal.com to participate in the class action and to obtain more information. You may also contact Jonathan Stern of The Rosen Law Firm toll free at 866-767-3653 or via e-mail to jstern@rosenlegal.com

The Rosen Law Firm represents investors throughout the globe, concentrating its practice in securities class actions and shareholder derivative litigation.

Contact Information:

      Jonathan Stern

      The Rosen Law Firm P.A.
      275 Madison Avenue, 34th Floor
      New York, NY 10016
      Tel:  (212) 686-1060
      Toll Free: (866) 767-3653
      Fax: (212) 202-3827

Excellent Paper: Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should No Longer Be Kept In Captivity

Court Denies SeaWorld Appeal of OSHA Citations

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied SeaWorld's appeal of citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando.

Months after the killer whale Tilikum drowned Brancheau in February 2010, OSHA cited the company for endangering the safety of its killer whale trainers. In June 2012, an administrative law judge upheld the citation and ordered SeaWorld to pay a $7,000 fine. The judge also sided with OSHA's recommendation that SeaWorld keep its trainers behind barriers or a safe distance away when working with killer whales.

SeaWorld appealed that ruling, but the court ruled Friday that the company's petition for review was denied.  It wasn't immediately known if SeaWorld would now petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

OSHA believes the best way for SeaWorld to protect its employees is to keep them behind barriers or a safe distance away from its killer whales.

In written briefs filed ahead of November's hearing, attorneys for both sides focused on the "General Duty Clause" of the Occupational Safety Health Act, which requires employers to provide a place of employment "free from recognized hazards" that are likely to cause death of physical harm.

OSHA lawyers said SeaWorld violated the General Duty Clause by exposing trainers to the recognized hazards of working in close contact with killer whales. OSHA cites SeaWorld's own internal reports documenting around 100 incidents of killer whale aggression, including "biting, hitting, lunging toward, pulling on, pinning, dragging, and aggressively swimming over SeaWorld trainers." The agency believes those incident reports establish a pattern of unpredictable and dangerous working conditions.

OSHA argues SeaWorld's attempts to reduce the risk have failed, leading to multiple injuries and the deaths of two trainers (Besides Brancheau, OSHA includes the death of Alexis Martinez, a trainer employed by a marine park in Spain who was killed by a SeaWorld-owned orca two months earlier.).

SeaWorld acknowledged in written legal briefs that there is a risk working with killer whales, but the company believes it has adequately minimized that risk through a comprehensive animal training program and other safety protocols. 

SeaWorld says having close contact with killer whales is integral to their business.

Oral arguments weren't at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where  SeaWorld's appeal was filed.  Instead, for the first time ever, the chief judge decided to move the proceedings to an auditorium at Georgetown University Law Center so students can witness the debate.

In their written briefs, SeaWorld argued that OSHA's general duty clause is unconstitutionally vague and violates employers' due process rights by not providing notice of prohibited working conditions. OSHA contends that SeaWorld's prior knowledge of killer whale aggression towards employees causing injury and death is adequate warning.


In an attempt to take control over one of their widely publicized enemies, PETA has invested in more SeaWorld stock as shares continue to tank.

San Diego 6’s Natasha Sweatte spoke with PETA about the likelihood of their investment granting them decision making power, with the goal of taking all Killer Whales out of captivity for good.

Major waves continue to crash into SeaWorld's business, their stock now down a whopping 44-percent since it was first issued.

After Southwest Airlines mutually split its 26 year partnership, to losing $15.9 million in profits, animal activists claim the impact felt from the film Blackfish is far from over.
In an attempt to gain control within SeaWorld, PETA bought additional shares of stock increasing their ownership.

"By buying more stock in SeaWorld, we can continue to push executives toward the only humane solution for the orcas captive and that is relocating them to the coastal sanctuaries," said Lindsay Rajt, PETA activist.

"I think what they're doing is working," said Lori Ryan , Director of the Corporate Government Institute at San Diego State University.

Ryan believes PETA has been effective in their media campaigning this past year, with various high profile celebrities like Jessica Biel on their side; however, she doesn't believe buying more stock will change anything.
"The ownership structure of SeaWorld is about 50-percent held by about ten different institutions, so the odds of them ever getting a seat on the board or having a large amount of power on the board of directors is very small from an ownership point of view," Ryan explained.

While SeaWorld is in the process of building a ten million gallon tank, nearly doubling its size for its Orcas, PETA said it's still nowhere near a compromise."

"It’s a desperate attempt to try to regain some favor with the public; a larger prison is still a prison at the end of the day," Rajt said.

According to PETA, a Killer Whale would have to circle the new tank some 1,500 times to mimic the distance it would travel in the wild for a single day. However, SeaWorld said what they do in captivity helps promote the growth of killer whales in their natural habitat years down the road.

The recent controversy is hitting Sea World where it hurts: In the wallet. This summer the stock has plunged, the company has lost marketing partner Southwest Airlines, and been rapped by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over the safety conditions of orca trainers.

I questioned the ethics of keeping these big animals in tanks and making them perform stupid, unnatural tricks. 

Half the analysts who follow Sea World on Wall Street have a sell rating. 

In its earnings release Wednesday, SeaWorld acknowledged that attendance in San Diego was hurt by recent media attention around the legislation. It was the first time the company actually admitted attendance problems because of animal activism, said Barton Crockett, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, in a research note following SeaWorld's earnings.

A petition on change.org urged Southwest to shutter its affiliation with SeaWorld garnered over 30,000 signatures.

After Wednesday's decline, the stock dipped below its IPO price, a clear warning threshold any stock!

Seaworld's Stock Tanks

SeaWorld's market cap stood at $3.26 billion on August 23rd, 2013 -- the day that "Blackfish" first aired on CNN. Since then, $1.56 billion in market cap has been entirely wiped out.

SeaWorld expects revenue to decline 6% to 7% over last year, which contrasts sharply with current Wall Street expectations for an increase of 3%. The company also expects adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization, to decline 14%-16% from a year ago.

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer called the collapse in SeaWorld’s earnings “complete” and “astounding.”

"Today is a great victory for dolphins and humanity -- it also shows that socially conscious films like ‘Blackfish’ and ‘The Cove’ have power to change the World. I've been waiting for this day for ten years," says Louie Psihoyos, the director of "The Cove." "There will be no recovering for [SeaWorld] now -- at least not while they have dolphins in their concrete bathtubs. "

As the Orlando Sentinel reports, although weather and the timing of the Easter holiday worked in the park’s favor, overall attendance bumped up just 0.3 percent -- and the guests who did visit spent less money. The total revenue for the most recent quarter was $405.2 million, a decrease compared to the company’s earnings in the same quarter last year.

A number of equity research firms are downgrading their already negative outlooks. Eva Dimensions, Ford Equity Research and Thomson Reuters are all bearishly pushing sell recommendations. Last week, market analysts at TheStreet had this to say: 


This is driven by multiple weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, poor profit margins and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

This stock slump is just another disaster in a series of major hits on SeaWorld, with long-term partner Southwest Airlines cutting ties with the aquarium two weeks ago.

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio. 

One such stock that you may want to consider dropping is SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (SEAS), which has witnessed a significant price decline in the past four weeks, and it has seen negative earnings estimate revisions for the current quarter and the current year. A Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) further confirms weakness in SEAS. 

A key reason for this move has been the negative trend in earnings estimate revisions. For the full year, we have seen 7 estimates moving down in the past 30 days, compared with no upward revision. This trend has caused the consensus estimate to trend lower, going from $1.41 a share a month ago to its current level of 83 cents.

Also, for the current quarter, SeaWorld Entertainment has seen 6 downward estimate revisions versus no revision in the opposite direction, dragging the consensus estimate down to $1.13 a share from $1.45 over the past 30 days.   

The stock also has seen some pretty dismal trading lately, as the share price has dropped 27.4% in the past month.

So it may not be a good decision to keep this stock in your portfolio anymore, at least if you don’t have a long time horizon to wait. 

If you are still interested in the Leisure And Recreation Services industry, you may instead consider some better-ranked stocks including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), Carnival Corporation (CCL) and Diamond Resorts International, Inc. (DRII). Among these stocks, Royal Caribbean Cruises holds a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and Carnival Corporation and Diamond Resorts International hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). With favorable Zacks Rank, these stocks may be better selections at this time. 

Sea World Sucks': Vandal Defaces 5 Freeway Sign

Drivers heading south on Interstate 5 near Mission Bay Sunday may have noticed one of the highway signs was defaced by a critic of SeaWorld San Diego.

Someone apparently climbed to the top of the sign hanging over the middle of the busy highway and painted over it.

The vandal changed the exit sign to “Sea World SUCKS.”

The incident happened amid protesting outside SeaWorld over Memorial Day weekend. Protestors expressed their concern of the orcas being held in captivity.

It was unknown when Caltrans would remove the vandalism.

“This act of vandalism demonstrates that, once again, these extremists are concerned with helping animals,” SeaWorld San Diego spokesman Dave Koontz stated Sunday.

We Now Know Who Was Responsible For The “SeaWorld Sucks” Sign On A San Diego Freeway, And We’re Not Surprised

Well, we now know who the person responsible for the act is…

The video, posted by Steve-O, a member of the crew that produced the Jackass movies, shows him and several others scaling a freeway sign on Interstate 5 and changing “Sea World Drive” to “Sea World Sucks.” #SeaWorldSucks

“I’m putting my foot down for Shamu,” the stunt performer and television personality says at the beginning of the video, whose real name is Steve Glover.

The video shows Glover taping over the word “Drive” with a preprinted sign that says “Sucks.”

At the end of the video, he says, “If doing that was wrong, I don’t want to be right! Screw you, SeaWorld!”

Glover’s comment below the video says, “Be an awesome person by sharing this video with the hashtag #SeaWorldSucks and wish me luck with the law!”

Caltrans released the following statement about Steve-O’s video confession.

“We consider defacing public property at a cost to state taxpayers  an unlawful act and a dangerous distraction for motorists.  We will refer all information to the California Highway Patrol.”

Fox 5 photographers captured Steve-O at the scene of the crime months ago, but at the time he denied any involvement. Now, the CHP is weighing possible charges against the stunt performer.

And it was Steve-O!

According to Steve-O, it took him five separate attempts, within a span of two days, to “finish the job.”

But when he did, it was clear that he was stoked.

Oh Steve-O… Don’t ever change.

Christina Zitka, a nonprofit consultant in Wisconsin, said she visited SeaWorld Orlando this year with friends who are season-ticket holders. But since seeing "Blackfish" she has signed petitions demanding SeaWorld release its orcas. "My whole perspective on captivity has changed," Ms. Zitka said. "I'd love for [SeaWorld] to be out of business."

Two members of the U.S. House from California are proposing a federal study on the impact of captivity on large marine animals, citing "serious concerns about the psychological and physical harm" to orcas in captivity.

The growing call to discontinue the orca attractions was spurred by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," an expose of SeaWorld's practices that inspired debate throughout national media.

SeaWorld's Attendance Declines Due To Animal Rights Protests

Theme Park Operator Says Its Attendance Was Hurt by Questions About the Treatment of Whales

This summer, families arriving at the airport here were greeted by posters featuring actress Kathy Najimy discouraging them from visiting one of the region's most popular attractions: "Welcome to San Diego! If you love animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld."

Killer whales are ill-suited for captivity, in part, because they spend much of their time hunting and belong to lifelong social groups, according to Robin Baird, a research biologist who studies the animals and isn't affiliated with animal-rights activists or SeaWorld. "There's no facility anywhere in the world that comes close to replicating anything like that," he said.

PETA, Actresses Team Up to Protest Alleged Effects of Captivity

8 Reasons Orcas Don’t Belong at SeaWorld

1. Premature Deaths

Orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum lifespan is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to over 100 for females. The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9, and orcas at SeaWorld rarely make it even to the average life expectancy of their wild cousins.

2. Lean, Mean Killing Machines—or Not?

In the wild, despite centuries of sharing the ocean, there has been only a single reliable report of an orca harming a human being. Because of the stress involved in being deprived of everything that is natural and important to orcas in captivity, orcas have attacked and killed three humans just since 1991 and many others have been injured.

3. Collapsed Dorsal Fins

All captive adult male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins, likely because they haveno space in which to swim freely and are fed an unnatural diet of thawed dead fish. SeaWorld claims that this condition is common—however, in the wild, it rarely ever happens and is a sign of an injured or unhealthy orca.

4. Tanks

SeaWorld confines whales who often swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild to tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub. An orca at SeaWorld would have to swim the circumference of the main pool 1,900 times in one day to swim that same distance.

5. Fights

Orcas who are not compatible are forced to live in tight quarters together. The resulting anxiety and tension cause fights between orcas. In the wild, orcas have strong social bonds that may last for life, their social rules prohibit serious violence against each other, and when fights do occur, they can find space to flee. In captivity, there’s nowhere for them to go, which leads to injuries and death.

Nakai was injured on a sharp metal edge in his tank while reportedly fleeing from an aggressive altercation with two other orcas.

6. Diet of Pig and Cow Bones

In captivity, orcas are unable to hunt and obtain water from their prey, so SeaWorld gives them gelatin, a substance that is not natural for them, in an attempt to keep them hydrated. Tilikum, who weighs 12,000 lbs., alone consumes 83 pounds of gelatin every day.

7. Breaking Their Teeth to Get Out

Orcas in captivity gnaw at iron bars and concrete from stress, anxiety, and boredom, sometimes breaking their teeth and resulting in painful dental drilling without anesthesia.

8. Family Matters

Orcas are highly social animals who live in stable social groups ranging from two to 15 individuals. In some populations, children stay with their mothers for life. In captivity, orcas are forced to live with orcas from other family units who speak a completely different language than they do and are constantly moved between facilities for breeding and to perform.

Orcas suffer mentally and physically just to line SeaWorld’s pockets. You can help them! The momentum is on our side with the release of Blackfish and our recent lawsuit against SeaWorld. Join the fight to help orcas, and tell all your friends never to go to SeaWorld.


SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported disappointing second-quarter results and slashed its revenue guidance for the year, saying the recent media debate about its treatment of captive orcas has hurt attendance.

Shares of SeaWorld—down 22% over the past year through Tuesday—fell 26% in morning trading.

SeaWorld, as we know it today, is over. It's only a matter of time. The company is finished.

Here's Why:

1. The SeaWorld brand is now tarnished, at best. Toxic? Likely. The brand represents the torture of whales for an increasing population of concerned citizens. If you love whales (and who doesn't), you don't like SeaWorld.

2. Wall Street has turned on SeaWorld. The stock is down over the last year by 45% and $1.6 billion in market cap has evaporated. You can sometimes fight City Hall, but it's nearly impossible to fight Wall Street. And Wall Street is done with SeaWorld.

3. Consumers are turning away from SeaWorld with attendance dropping 4.3 percent over the first 6 months of 2014. It takes forever and a day for consumers to return to a company once they have walked away. And they usually never come back.

4. The internet has turned against SeaWorld. "Blackfish," The Oceanic Preservation Society, The Dodo, over 100,000 users on Change.org and many other sites have made it their business to actively campaign against SeaWorld's mistreatment of animals. SeaWorld can't survive that, plain and simple.

5. SeaWorld has proven itself totally inept in dealing with 1, 2, 3 and 4. They haven't got a clue.

Business as usual is not a solution. SeaWorld can hold on for a few more years, as its stock continues to fall into the single digits and its market cap becomes untenable. Or SeaWorld management and investors can hit the reset button. Begin a program to provide a better life for the whales it has in captivity, be a world-wide leader and symbol of caring for animals, save its brand and save the company. I'm sure they can figure out a better use for those tanks. 

"The company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California," SeaWorld said in its earnings release.

SeaWorld's results and attendance were hurt by the debate surrounding the company's treatment of whales. 

The proposal comes as SeaWorld faces increased pressure and protests over the company's treatment of its captive orcas, also known as killer whales. 

SeaWorld, for its part, has continued to defend its practices, saying it considers the welfare of the animals a top priority.

Nonetheless, the debate appears to be affecting SeaWorld's results. The company, which owns three of its namesake parks as well as two Busch Gardens, said it expected its full-year revenue to fall by 6% to 7%. The low end of its previous guidance range of $1.49 billion to $1.52 billion would have represented revenue growth of 2.1%.

SeaWorld said it would pursue cost cuts in a bid to trigger growth as it expects sluggish revenue trends to continue. The company said it intends to reinvest savings generated by the cuts into new attractions at its destination parks. Overall attendance for the year fell 4.3% through June 30, SeaWorld said.

Late last month, Southwest Airlines Co. and SeaWorld ended their 26-year-old marketing relationship because of "shifting priorities" after animal-rights groups had accused the airline of supporting animal cruelty. Southwest, however, called the move "strictly a business decision."

The company said attendance at its parks grew 0.3% in the second quarter compared with the year-before period. Typically, the company's revenue for the year is driven by its results in the second and third quarters. Chief Executive Jim Atchison said that lower attendance at destination parks partially offset the benefits of a shift in Easter's timing and favorable weather conditions.

"We were pleased to report attendance growth in the quarter despite a challenging industry and competitive environment and a tough comparison to the prior year quarter, which included the attendance benefit from opening our largest expansion ever at SeaWorld Orlando," he added.

Overall, SeaWorld reported a second-quarter profit of $37.3 million, or 43 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $15.9 million, or 18 cents a share. Revenue declined 1.5% to $405.2 million.

Analysts had projected 59 cents a share in earnings and $445 million in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue generated per theme-park visitor fell 1.8% to $61.54.

Visitors heading to SeaWorld are being greeted by a new PETA-backed campaign discouraging them from visiting the popular marine park because of SeaWorld's treatment of 23 captive orcas. 

The advertisement, sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was the latest tactic in a mounting campaign from animal-rights groups, celebrities and politicians to pressure SeaWorld about the treatment of its 29 captive killer whales. The campaign's splashy maneuvers coincide with the crucial summer tourist season and have prompted SeaWorld to fight to protect its image.

Earlier this month, actress Jessica Biel submitted an online question on PETA's behalf at the SeaWorld shareholder meeting asking managers when they would move the orcas to a more natural setting. (It's called the ocean)

The park says it treats its whales with care, spends tens of millions of dollars on their habitats and ensures worker safety. "For us there is no higher priority than the welfare of our animals," said Fred Jacobs, vice president of communications for SeaWorld.

Two members of the U.S. House from California are proposing a federal study on the impact of captivity on large marine animals, citing "serious concerns about the psychological and physical harm" to orcas in captivity.

Activists for years have argued that confinement is unhealthy for the social and intelligent killer whales. A widely seen 2013 documentary, "Blackfish," revived the issue. The film argues captivity can help trigger attacks and highlighted trainer injuries and two deaths. The animals have been linked to other trainer deaths, and SeaWorld employees aren't allowed in the water with them during performances.

SeaWorld calls the film "propaganda" pushed by "animal-rights extremists."

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which also includes Busch Gardens, reported 23.4 million visitors to its 11 theme parks in 2013. The company was previously owned by private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP, which still has a large minority stake. The company made its debut on the stock market in April 2013.

The company reported record revenue of $1.5 billion last year because of increased spending in the parks and posted $50.5 million in net income. For the first quarter of 2014, SeaWorld reported a loss of $49 million, attributed to a 13% drop in attendance that officials blamed on bad weather and a late Easter holiday.

While it isn't clear what, if any, impact the controversy may have had on attendance, SeaWorld launched a website this year titled "Truth About Blackfish" to dispute the film.

Captive orcas are "benefiting animals in the wild through education and inspiration from the people that see them," said John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego. New television commercials feature trainers talking about their commitment to animals.

SeaWorld also keeps killer whales in its Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio parks, but debate is centered on California, where people have mixed emotions on the issue. Locals value it as an economic engine.

"I think the [whale] performances are terrific. I've taken my own children," said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from San Rafael, Calif., who is co-sponsoring a federal amendment along with fellow Democrat Adam Schiff of Burbank to study the impact of captivity on large marine animals. Mr. Huffman said he understands SeaWorld's position that its parks cultivate a sense of conservation in visitors, "but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask the other questions."

In addition to SeaWorld, there are 13 facilities in eight countries that hold orcas, according to Naomi Rose, a marine-animal scientist and activist who opposes confinement. There is one non-SeaWorld park in the U.S. that has an orca, Miami Seaquarium.

Animal-rights activists argue that captive killer whales don't live as long as those in the wild.

Doug DeMaster, director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said data from the past decade show orca "survival in the wild is comparable to survival in captivity."

State Assembly member Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica, proposed a bill to end killer-whale shows and discontinue orca captivity. The measure was put on hold this spring after its first hearing while lawmakers study the issue further after SeaWorld supporters argued that the park is economically important to San Diego.

Besides ending killer whale shows, AB2140 would have also banned captive breeding and the import and export of killer whales. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released its own statement. PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said although the bill is stalled for now, the issue is still alive.

"The public has learned how orcas suffer psychologically, succumb to premature deaths, and lash out in frustration and aggression in SeaWorld's orca pits, and they've responded with lower attendance levels, public protests, and legislation," Newkirk said in the release.

The Parks and Wildlife Committee held the first hearing for AB2140. At the hearing, the bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, agreed to revisit his proposal after further study.

In 2013, SeaWorld paid San Diego $14 million in lease fees and $5 million in property taxes. During peak summer months, the park employs upward of 4,500, said Dave Koontz, spokesman for SeaWorld San Diego.

"SeaWorld is a huge economic driver for the city of San Diego," said city-council member Lorie Zapf, who opposes banning whale shows. She and fellow council members declared last March SeaWorld month in honor of the park's 50th anniversary.

In San Diego, penguins and dolphins are on display, but orcas are the primary reason visitors dole out the $84 admission. For an extra $34, visitors can "Dine with Shamu," munching on shrimp cocktail or tofu salad near the orca pools.


On a recent afternoon, the park's Shamu Stadium was nearly filled to its 5,500-seat capacity. Audience members shrieked with delight as six whales performed synchronized leaps to music while splashing guests with their huge flukes.

SeaWorld "allows people to be conscious of these animals and experience them and want to help with conservation," said Stormy Guzman, a veterinary technician from Reno, Nev., visiting with her family.

SeaWorld to Upgrade Killer Whale Habitats

Following lagging attendance and bad publicity, SeaWorld will announce a new expansion of the habitats housing its signature killer whales. 

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., suffering from negative publicity and flagging attendance, announced Friday a new expansion of the habitats housing its signature killer whales.

The company plans to upgrade the killer whale tanks at three of its theme parks, beginning with the San Diego location. The new enclosure in San Diego will be almost double the size of the current one, holding about 10 million gallons of water and extending to a depth of 50 feet. The company wouldn't specify the cost of the upgrades, only saying it would be several hundred million dollars.

The company also said it pledged $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research.

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SeaWorld Entertainment is locked in a battle with animal-rights activists, who say that training and publicly performing killer whales is an inherently cruel act. The documentary "Blackfish," which has been screened in cinemas and broadcast multiple times by CNN, raised these criticisms to a higher level of public awareness, and has harmed the company's financial results.

Jim Atchison, SeaWorld's chief executive officer, said the new facilities would set the standard globally for man-made killer whale habitats, but acknowledged they were unlikely to satisfy the company's most vocal critics. "It probably won't, and that's not our audience," he said. "Unfortunately there are some people who want nothing more than to see the end to the relationship between humans and animals, and that would be a sad outcome."

Instead, the company says the habitats will create new opportunities for scientific research into the animals.

The San Diego facility will include a "water treadmill" system letting the whales swim against a stream of moving water, allowing them more exercise but also opening the door to new research into how the animals burn energy. The system will be the first of its kind in the world, the company says.

SeaWorld's San Diego park currently keeps its killer whales in a habitat containing 5.6 million gallons of seawater, which is filtered and chilled to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit and drops to 35 feet at its deepest point. The new tank will have a total volume of more than 10 million gallons and hit a depth of 50 feet. It will also include a 40-foot high glass viewing wall.

Construction at the San Diego location is set to begin in 2015 and be completed by 2018, with similar upgrades planned for SeaWorld parks in Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio.

Mr. Atchison said he was confident the construction wouldn't have an impact on visitor numbers. Attendance at SeaWorld parks has fallen in four of its six most recent quarters, and dropped by 4.1% in 2013, with the company attributing much of that decline to increases in ticket prices. Total revenue increased by 3% last year to $1.46 billion, its highest ever, as average spending per visitor rose.

Investors haven't been kind. SeaWorld shares fell by one-third on Wednesday and are off nearly 50% over the past 12 months. The stock declined another 4.8% to $18 on Thursday.

The company acknowledges the fallout of "Blackfish"—which it says is a work of propaganda—is hitting attendance. Mr. Atchison said the drop in visitors was disappointing but temporary. "We're a 50-year-old company and we'll have difficult quarters, they'll come and they'll go," he said. "But we have an enduring brand and a unique position in the marketplace."

The company's critics say the parks' attendance and overall financial performance show that its business has fallen out of favor with the public.

"You don't have dancing bears or tigers jumping through hoops anymore," said Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, which advocates against keeping marine mammals like whales and dolphins in captivity. "Zoos have moved away from that model; they try to place animals in a more natural setting. So why do we still have sea animals performing tricks?"


The answer, she said: "This is what people expected from sea animals for years and years, and SeaWorld catered to that. But the expectation has changed, and SeaWorld is way behind the times on this."

Christopher Dold, SeaWorld's vice president of veterinary services, disagrees with those who say killer whales can't live healthy lives in captivity. He said the new habitats will be "not just larger but more dynamic, and with a lot more of the kind of mental and physical stimulation that we know is so important for overall health and well-being." The improvements, said Dr. Dold, don't represent a concession that current space housing the whales is too small.

"We believe the facilities we have are absolutely world class, but that doesn't mean we're just going to sit back," he said. "With these kind of spaces, the changes are sometimes evolutionary and sometimes revolutionary, and this time it is revolutionary."

Updated: August 13, 2014

For some SeaWorld visitors, sitting close enough to the orca show to get splashed is a big thrill. But not everyone enjoys their time in the splash zone.

On Wednesday, Blackstone Group’s exposure to SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. came with a price tag of more than $187 million as the theme-park operator’s shares tanked. By the end of the day, they had fallen 33% to $18.90.

The plunge — which wiped away $9.25 on each of the 20,245,708 shares Blackstone says in a securities filing that it controls — was prompted by a big quarterly earnings whiff and lowered guidance from the theme park operator. A proposed $250-million share buyback failed to buoy the stock.

SeaWorld is battling public pressure over the treatment of its famous orcas, which was the topic of last year’s “Blackfish,” a critically acclaimed feature-length documentary that cast the company in an unflattering light.

It could have been worse for Blackstone, which bought SeaWorld from Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2009.

Though still SeaWorld’s largest shareholder, the New York firm has aggressively sold down its stake since taking it public in an April 2013 stock offering. Those sales prior to Wednesday’s swoon ensure that Blackstone will have more than doubled its money on the deal no matter what happens to its remaining stock — a portion of which are owned by investors who bet on SeaWorld alongside the private-equity firm as opposed to the firm itself.

Monty Henry, Owner


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