Embattled SeaWorld names new CEO

New SeaWorld CEO formerly headed Herschend Family Entertainment

Facing sinking attendance amid controversy over the treatment of its animals, SeaWorld Entertainment named a new chief executive to help the company repair its damaged reputation.

SeaWorld named Joel Manby to the post of president and chief executive, effective April 7. Manby, 55, has since 2003 been president and chief executive of Herschend Family Entertainment, the owner of the Harlem Globetrotters and Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park, among other attractions.

Manby was also chief executive of Saab Automotive USA for four years and author of "Love Works," a book that calls on leaders to "allow integrity and faith to guide leadership decisions."

Manby takes over during a difficult time for SeaWorld, which reported a 4% drop in attendance in 2014, a decline that animal rights group attribute to a public revolt that came after the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." The film charges that SeaWorld abuses and neglects orcas.

SeaWorld announced plans recently to launch a campaign to repair its reputation after the "Blackfish" controversy.

"Even in the most challenging business environments, Joel has consistently enhanced the performance of the companies he has led for customers, investors and employees alike," said David F. D'Alessandro, who has served as interim chief executive and will continue to serve as the company's chairman. "He has the experience and qualifications to lead our company into the future."

In a statement, Manby said SeaWorld is known for "world-class animal care."

"My job is to build on that foundation while consistently improving and innovating in a competitive environment," he said. "I look forward to working with our more than 23,000 team members through the challenges ahead."

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