PUBLISHED WED, SEP 25
Two days after Disney said Catherine Powell would be leaving the company and her position as president of Disney Parks West would be eliminated, the company has shed more light on its strategy going forward.
Powell’s position had initially been added just under two years ago when Disney began gearing up for the upcoming integration of its acquisition of Fox and its integration of consumer products — publishing, gaming and merchandise — into its park segment.
In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, said the integration went so well that “what could have been a five-year mission turned out to be an 18-month mission.”
Chapek said Powell’s departure was a mutual decision, as the role had become extraneous. Powell is a 15-year veteran of Disney and is highly thought of within the company, he said.
Powell’s position at Disney included overseeing Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Paris. This allowed Chapek to focus on Fox and the consumer products integration but still have eyes on parks. Powell’s position has been split up, which Chapek said is how the parks segment was run previously.
Going forward, Disneyland Resort will be overseen by Rebecca Campbell, who most recently was president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for the company’s direct-to-consumer and international segment. She has more than 20 years of experience with the company.
Walt Disney World Resort will be led by Josh D’Amaro, who previously was president of Disneyland Resorts.
Campbell and D’Amaro will assume their new roles starting in November.
The Disneyland Paris duties will be handed off to Michael Colglazier, who leads Disney parks and resorts in Asia. Colglazier has been with Disney for more than 30 years.
In addition, Disney has promoted George Kalogridis, who has led Walt Disney World Resort since 2013, to the role of president of Disney segment development and enrichment. He will also lead the Disney Institute. Kalogridis started his career at Disney as an original cast member from Walt Disney World’s opening in 1971.
Kalogridis will use his operational knowledge from his nearly five decades at Disney to put together a set of best practices for site leads with less experience.
“George really wants to make sure he’s doing everything he can for the segment,” Chapek said, noting that he is a valuable asset to the company’s growth.
Powell’s sudden departure had many speculating that she was leaving the company after lackluster attendance at Disney’s new Star Wars-themed lands at Disneyland and Disney World. Chapekcalled the reports “erroneous.”
“I will tell you that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has exceeded every expectation we’ve had,” Chapek said. “There is no there there to this being anything but a runaway success.”
Park attendance at domestic Disney parks fell 3% in the fiscal third quarter. Disney blamed the lower traffic on its decision to block out annual passholders and raise park ticket prices. It also said that fear from potential parkgoers that lines would be unbearable at its new Galaxy’s Edge attraction in Anaheim, California, contributed to the slowdown.
This news was partly to blame for the stock tumbling nearly 4% after the earnings were reported. Disney’s stock, which has a market value of $239 billion, has gained more than 20% since the start of the year. However, shares are down about 6% since the earnings were reported on Aug. 6.
Despite the fall in foot traffic, Disney executives have said they were happy with the experience they were able provide to guests during the first three months after Galaxy’s Edge opened.
ITEC Entertainment President and CEO Bill Coan said the cycle of attendance and sales may have started lower than expected for the Star Wars lands, but he expects that “in the end, [Galaxy’s Edge] will do what Disney anticipated. Spend and attendance will bump [up].”
Industry observers expect many parkgoers have delayed their vacation plans to visit the two Star Wars lands in anticipation of the opening of the Rise of Resistance Ride, which has been billed as Disney’s most ambitious park project to date. The attraction is set to open in Orlando, Florida, on Dec. 5 and in Anaheim, California, early next year.
“Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is doing extremely well, and I am very optimistic for not just the next quarter, but for future years,” Chapek said.