SeaWorld Pays $65 Million to Settle ‘Blackfish’-Related Lawsuit

The company was sued over the fallout from the 2013 documentary

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 30: Killer whale "Tilikum" appears during its performance in its show "Believe" at Sea World on March 30, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. "Tilikum" is back to public performance March 30, the first time since the six-ton whale has performed since killing trainer 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau at the marine park on February 24 2010, after Sea World Parks & Entertainment president Jim Atchinson signed off on the decision this week. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
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SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. agreed on Tuesday to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from the scathing 2013 documentary “Blackfish” for $65 million, according to court documents.

“Following more than five years of hard-fought litigation, Class Representatives have reached an agreement with Defendants to resolve all claims asserted in the Action and related claims in exchange for a $65,000,000.00 cash payment pursuant to the Stipulation,” the documents state.

A separate document filed with Security and Exchange Commission says the “proposed settlement does not include or constitute an admission, concession, or finding of any fault, liability, or wrongdoing by the Company or any defendant.” In that document, SeaWorld said it will fund the settlement with about $45.5 million in insurance proceeds and about $19.5 million in cash.

The lawsuit, filed back in 2014, accused SeaWorld of misleading investors about just how bad business had gotten in the aftermath of the documentary, which accused them of abusing its killer whales.

A trial had been slated to start next month.

In 2015, the theme park reported an 84 percent drop in its net second-quarter income; after a $37.4 million haul in 2014, the park was only able to net $5.8 million in 2015. Total revenues for the quarter fell from $405.2 million in 2014 to $391.6 million, marking a 3 percent drop year over year.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.