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WHAT?! Rasulo Leaves The Parks, But…

Seriously. What??

Oft-maligned (by me) Disney Parks chief Jay Rasulo becomes Disney’s Chief Financial Officer. Fair enough, he cares way more about money than theme parks anyway, and fans have wanted to see him gone for years. But current CFO Tom Staggs takes his place as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts? A switch?!

Seriously. Did anyone see this coming? Again, the year of bizarre executive shakeups continues. Jason Garcia at the Sentinel says that this might signal that Staggs is being groomed to become president of the entire Disney empire, but what in heavens name indicates that he knows anything about the parks? From his bio on Wikipedia:

Joining Disney in 1990, Staggs rose from his role as a manager of strategic planning to senior vice president of strategic planning and development in 1995. Staggs became executive vice president and chief financial officer in 1998, and was appointed his current title in January, 2000.

Staggs was born in Illinois and received a B.S. in business from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He began his career as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley & Co. before joining Disney in 1990.

Seriously, that resume is like a burning hot fork in my eye. America’s already had its Death Panel, and it was called Disney “Strategic Planning” in the 1990s. Please, someone at least tell me he’s ever been to a theme park…

UPDATE: Gird your loins, it’s a press release:

THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY ANNOUNCES EXECUTIVE CHANGES

BURBANK , Calif., November 12—In line with The Walt Disney Company’s goals of advancing its global businesses and brands while providing new opportunities and challenges to executives, Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Iger announced today that two of the company’s most senior leaders would assume new roles at the end of the year.

Thomas O. Tom Staggs, Senior Executive Vice President and Disney’s Chief Financial Officer and 20 year Disney veteran, will become Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. In his new position, Staggs will preside over the company’s vacation businesses, which span three continents and include five-world class destinations, a top rated cruise line and the most popular resort locations in North America, Europe and Asia.

James A. Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts and a 23-year Disney veteran, will become Senior Executive Vice President and Disney’s Chief Financial Officer. In his new role, Rasulo will oversee the company’s worldwide finance organization, corporate strategy and development, brand management, corporate alliances, investor relations, treasury and risk management activities, controller functions, information systems, corporate responsibility, real estate and taxes.

Both will remain members of the senior management group reporting to Iger.

“Jay and Tom are both dynamic and versatile executives, who have done a great job over the last several years and have helped me to shape Disney’s strategic direction,” Iger said. “By giving them exciting new challenges that build on both their strengths at a time when each of their respective areas are on the right strategic track, the change is good for them and good for the company.”

As CFO, Staggs has helped guide Disney through one of its most important periods of expansion and financial success while steering it effectively through two sudden global economic downturns in 2001 and 2008. Throughout, he’s been praised by Wall Street for his financial and communication skills and has consistently been voted the country’s top entertainment industry CFO by analysts polled by Institutional Investor magazine.

Working closely with Iger, Staggs has played a critical role in a wide variety of Disney’s strategic and operating initiatives, including the acquisitions of Capital Cities/ABC, Pixar and the pending acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. As CFO, he spearheaded Disney’s realignment of its performance goals toward a combination of profit growth and strong long term capital returns and free cash flow. He has also led company efforts to drive greater cost and capital efficiency throughout the organization and to put in place well-received company-wide environmental and healthy food policies.

“For over a decade, I’ve had a unique opportunity to build our business by collaborating with a group of great executives running a wide range of media and travel businesses,” said Staggs. “Taking the operational reins of one of our biggest and most complex businesses during the period of rapid global expansion launched by Jay is tremendously exciting and a challenge I’m really looking forward to.”

Under Rasulo’s leadership, Parks and Resorts has built on its traditional strengths as the world’s preeminent theme park operator to create a range of businesses that have made Disney a global leader in the family vacation industry.

As part of this growth strategy, Rasulo has overseen a major expansion of Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, which culminates with the opening of Cars Land in 2012, and of Hong Kong Disneyland, where work is underway on the creation of three original new lands. He has also led negotiations with the Chinese government to begin development of a new theme park in Shanghai.

In addition to park expansion, Rasulo has been the principal architect of the growth of the award-winning Disney Cruise Line, which is currently adding two new ships, Disney Vacation Club and Adventures by Disney. Prior to becoming head of Disney Parks and Resorts in 2002, Rasulo greatly improved the operating performance of Disneyland Paris, now the number one tourist destination in Europe.

By emphasizing innovative marketing, strategic investment and financial discipline, Rasulo has also deftly managed the Parks and Resorts businesses through difficult periods, first as the unit’s President after tourism plummeted globally in the wake of 9/11 and later as Chairman during the 2008-09 economic downturn. Throughout, he’s been an important advocate for the tourism industry, serving as Chairman of the Travel Industry Association of America in 2006 and 2007. Rasulo was inducted into the Travel Industry Hall of Leaders in 2008.

“It’s been a tremendous honor to lead the almost 100,000 Cast Members, Crew Members and Imagineers during a period of unprecedented investment at Disney Parks and Resorts ,” said Rasulo. “I look forward to building on Tom’s success as CFO by working with Bob to advance Disney’s growth strategy, while continuing to strengthen our balance sheet and create shareholder value.”

Both Rasulo and Staggs are longtime Disney executives and both serve on the board of Euro Disney S.C.A., the French parent company of Disneyland Paris.

Rasulo joined Disney in 1986 as Director, Strategic Planning and Development, advancing to more senior positions there, and later became Senior Vice President, Corporate Alliances. He then led Disney Regional Entertainment before moving to Paris as President, Euro Disney before eventually becoming its Chairman and CEO in 2000. A native New Yorker, Rasulo has a degree in economics from Columbia University and both an MA in economics and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Before joining Disney, he held positions with Chase Manhattan Bank and the Marriott Corp.

Staggs joined Disney in 1990 as Manager of Strategic Planning and soon advanced through a series of positions of increased responsibility, becoming Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development in 1995 before becoming CFO and Executive Vice President in 1998. Born in Illinois, Staggs received a BS in business from University of Minnesota and an MBA from Stanford University. He worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley & Co. before joining Disney.

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2 comments to WHAT?! Rasulo Leaves The Parks, But…

  • Another Voice

    I just saw this too.

    It’s nice that Iger is rewarding the man who made Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Hong Kong the colossal business successes that they are.

    Ever since the day that Dick Nunis was kicked out to the putty green a stint at Attractions was hinted to a requirement if one wanted to become COO of Disney…at least that’s what Disney says Wall Street wants. Of course that’s a lie and Bob “I cancelled ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ to put ‘Americas Funniest Home Video’ in its place” Iger is a shining example that Wall Street doesn’t give a nerf about grooming Disney CEO’s.

    But everyone who’s taken the role has bought into the assumption. Nothing drives a Hollywood suit like ego. Pressler was all but picking out office furniture for his new ‘COO of Disney’ office when he was canned. Rasulo has been the same way for a long time now – he knew this was his big jump to the corporate board room.

    Ring-ring, ring-ring. “I have a collect call from the Department of Disappointment for a Mr. J. Rasulo”.

    Attractions is the company’s ATM machine. All Iger wants from someone in that chair is an ever increasing river of cash. It’s not like ABC or the studios will exactly keep paying for his Park Avenue apartment after all. It will be interesting when earnings are announced today just how much the division’s performance is allowing Rasulo to spend more time with his family.

  • philphoggs

    He punished you with whips, but I’ll use whips with scorpions!
    translated,
    but I say the company stays afloat due to Jonas Brothers & Hannah Montana! SOL or LOL

    As always thanks for good post and following insight.

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