SeaWorld Attendance Falls; Major Investor Dumps Shares

In the first three months of 2013, SeaWorld reported a total attendance of 3.5 million people. Fast-forward to the first three months of this year and the numbers are a bit different. Yesterday the company reported 3.05 million people came through in the first three months of 2014, a 13 percent drop in attendance compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the company's biggest shareholder has sold millions of shares.

See also: Could Miami Seaquarium Orca Lolita Be Days Away From Freedom?

Blackstone LLP bought SeaWorld for $2.3 billion from Anheuser-Busch in December 2009. SeaWorld went public in April 2013, with an initial public offering of 26 million shares. Blackstone remained the biggest shareholder with 63 percent of the company.

Yesterday, it ridded itself of 1.75 million shares , with SeaWorld agreeing to buy them. Fifteen million more shares were shed in an underwritten offering, bringing Blackstone's stake in the company down to 25 percent and making it no longer the majority shareholder.

Blackstone sold SeaWorld shares back in November as well, cutting its ownership share then from 63 to 46 percent.

SeaWorld has faced a barrage of negative publicity since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which suggests the theme park treats its orcas poorly.

SeaWorld objected to the film when it came out and denied the documentary would affect attendance. There's a still a page on its site calling the documentary "propaganda."

"All of the falsehoods and misleading techniques in Blackfish are employed in the service of the film's obvious bias, one that is best revealed near the end of Blackfish by a neuroscientist with no known expertise in killer whales," the site reads. "She claims that all killer whales in captivity are 'emotionally destroyed' and 'ticking time bombs.' These are not the words of science, and indeed, there is not a shred of scientific support for them. Rather, they are the words of animal rights activists whose agenda the film's many falsehoods were designed to advance. They reveal Blackfish not as an objective documentary, but as propaganda."

SeaWorld also told Bloomberg that the drop in attendance has to do with the company's reducing discounts and raising ticket prices.

The stock price midday today was $30, still better than $27, the price at its IPO.

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