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Huge potential in SeaWorld despite rough year, says Zhonghong Zhuoye Group's Maruyama

SeaWorld’s newly appointed interim executive chair Yoshikazu Maruyama has said the Zhonghong Zhuoye Group's (ZZG) sees “huge potential” in the company’s leadership and operations, despite recent turmoil in and outside of the board room.

Maruyama, who joined SeaWorld’s board in September, was named executive chair this week following Joel Manby’s sudden departure from the company after nearly three years in the role.

Following Manby’s resignation, SeaWorld enacted a transition plan, which sees John Reilly succeeding Manby on a temporary basis, with Maruyama named interim executive chair until a new CEO is appointed.

The China-based ZZG is a majority shareholder in SeaWorld, having purchased a 21 per cent stake in the company last year. As a representative of ZZG, Maruyama also acts as president of the group’s US operation.

“I believe that Zhonghong is committed to its investment,” said Maruyama, speaking during an earnings call. “They see the huge potential both in the leadership of the company as well as the underlying performance and they see the huge potential of the opportunity with the SeaWorld brand in China in the future.”

Despite a poor year for SeaWorld overall, Maruyama reflected on a positive final quarter as a sign that things are slowly improving for the operator. Financial results for Q4 exceeded expectations, which was attributed to stronger-than-anticipated revenue performance from SeaWorld’s Christmas events. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) beat forecasts by more than US$5m (€4.1m, £3.6m) for the year, but the US$300.8m (€246.3m, £218.1m) total was still down US$32m (€26.2m, £23.2m) on the previous year’s results.

“We are so confident in the underlying performance of the business for the last quarter and on the trends that we're seeing going into this year,” said Maruyama.

“As a board member I want to make sure that the company's leadership continues to transition in a very successful manner and we are delighted that Joel, being the inspirational leader that he is, has been working collectively with the board to ensure that there is a very smooth and successful transition of leadership. We hope to make this very smooth transition happen in a very, very positive business environment.”

SeaWorld  Yoshikazu Maruyama  Zhonghong Zhuoye Group  Joel Manby 
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SeaWorld’s newly appointed interim executive chair Yoshikazu Maruyama has said the Zhonghong Zhuoye Group's (ZZG) sees “huge potential” in the company’s leadership and operations, despite recent turmoil in and outside of the board room. Maruyama, who joined SeaWorld’s board in September, was named executive chair this week following Joel Manby’s sudden departure from the company after nearly three years in the role. Following Manby’s resignation, SeaWorld enacted a transition plan,
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SeaWorld's orcas have caused great controversy for the company, which has suffered financially / TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images
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