SeaWorld, the popular chain of marine theme parks and aquariums, is going public today.
The company’s IPO filing is pretty standard, among other things spelling out the usual risks involved in its business that could affect financial performance in the future.
However, one of the items on that list of things that makes SeaWorld risky is particularly harsh – the risks presented by the animals they showcase at their parks (see page 20 of the document).
Below is the aforementioned section of the prospectus (emphasis added):
Featuring animals at our theme parks involves risks.
Our theme parks feature numerous displays and interactions that include animals. All animal enterprises involve some degree of risk. All animal interaction by our employees and our guests in attractions in our theme parks, where offered, involves risk. While we maintain strict safety procedures for the protection of our employees and guests, injuries or death, while rare, have occurred in the past. For example, in February 2010, a trainer was killed while engaged in an interaction with a killer whale. Following this incident, we were subject to an inspection by the U.S. Department of labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which resulted in three citations concerning alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and certain regulations thereunder. We have appealed certain of these citations and the appeal process is ongoing. In connection with this incident, we reviewed and revised our safety protocols and made certain safety-related facility enhancements. This incident has also been the subject of significant media attention, including television and newspaper coverage, a documentary and a book, as well as discussions in social media. This incident and similar events that may occur in the future may harm our reputation, reduce attendance and negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, seven killer whales are presently on loan to a third party. Although the occurrence of any accident or injury involving these killer whales would be outside of our control, any such occurrence could negatively affect our business and reputation.
We maintain insurance of the type and in amounts that we believe is commercially reasonable and that is available to animal enterprise related businesses in the theme park industry. We cannot predict the level of the premiums that we may be required to pay for subsequent insurance coverage, the level of any self-insurance retention applicable thereto, the level of aggregate coverage available, or the availability of coverage for specific risks.
It’s not something anyone necessarily wants to be reminded of, but it’s necessary for a company like SeaWorld nonetheless, especially given that it has dealt with this issue head on in the past.