Netflix’s ‘The Last Dolphin King’ talks about the life of renowned dolphin trainer Jose Luis Barbero and chronicles how a leaked video destroyed his successful career. The footage allegedly featured him abusing dolphins during training and reportedly led to the suspension of his position as the Vice President of Georgia Aquarium.
However, Mike Leven, the then-CEO of Georgia Aquarium, refused to blame Jose without conducting a proper investigation and even employed several people to verify the video’s authenticity. While we are sorry to report that Jose eventually died by suicide after being bombarded by death threats, let’s find out where Mike is at present, shall we?
Who Is Mike Leven?
A native of Boston, Mike Leven completed his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University before pursuing a Master of Science degree from Boston University. To date, he has enjoyed an illustrious professional career and is widely regarded as a pioneer in the hospitality industry. From the very beginning, Mike was highly interested in the hospitality sector and has worked in the management of several prestigious hotel chains.
In 1989, Mike co-founded the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and later established his own company, US Franchise Systems, Inc., in 1995. Readers will be interested to know that at the time of writing, the latter controls several hotel chains, including Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites, among others. Additionally, Mike has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and is responsible for developing and promoting luxury properties like The Venetian resort in Las Vegas.
In 1998, the governor of Georgia made Mike a member of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism’s tourism committee. Apart from serving such a prestigious post, reports mention that Mike has been a board member at several other organizations, including Holiday Inn Worldwide, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Hersha Hospitality Trust. Moreover, he has won several awards for his contribution to the hospitality sector and has lectured at many top institutes.
In 2015, Mike served as the CEO of Georgia Aquarium when they decided to bring Jose Luis Barbero on as the Vice President. While on the show, the former mentioned that he was chosen after much scrutiny, and the board members were looking forward to welcoming him. Surprisingly, just four days before Jose’s scheduled joining date, the SOS Delfines, an organization aimed at protecting dolphins, uploaded a video showing that the dolphin trainer allegedly abused and behaved violently with dolphins during training sessions.
The video, shot from an apartment next to Marineland Mallorca, was quite grainy, and Jose and people acquainted with him claimed that the footage was doctored. However, with people being quick to judge, he and his family soon received death threats. Nevertheless, Mike refused to believe such allegations without a proper investigation, although he temporarily suspended Jose’s employment.
Mike even employed the services of an expert to determine the video’s authenticity and got an ex-FBI agent to travel to Spain to enquire further. Unfortunately, before the investigation could run its course, Jose went missing from his home in Mallorca and was found dead inside his car in the parking lot of the Palma de Majorca airport on March 7, 2015. It was later determined that he had died by suicide.
Where Is Mike Leven Now?
Mike continued being the CEO of Georgia Aquarium even after Jose’s death and eventually retired in 2019. Determined to give back to the community, he established the non-profit philanthropic organization Jewish Future Pledge, through which he continued his family’s support for Judaism and raised funds for the welfare of all Jews worldwide. Additionally, he holds the position of a board member in several organizations, including the Birthright Israel Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, the AEPi Fraternity Foundation, and the Board of Advisors of Prager University, among others.
On the home front, Mike is happily married to his longtime wife, Andrea Leven, and the pair have built a peaceful life for themselves in Georgia. The couple has three sons, and reports mention that Mike and Andrea are loving grandparents to five grandchildren. Witnessing his incredibly successful career path is inspiring, and we wish him the best for the years to come.