Melissa Valiquette Named Epcot VP as Sam Lau Moves to a New Role in Asia

WDW Melissa Valiquette

Epcot’s Vice President Sam Lau is leaving Epcot for a newly created role in Asia. Lau had been in that role for just over a year.

Lau is being succeeded by Melissa Valiquette, with Sam taking up the position of Vice President for New Program Development, Asia.

Valiquette is a 20 year Disney veteran, having held roles in front-line park operations at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and also at business units behind the scenes.

Melissa was also a Walt Disney World Ambassador back in 1997.

As the new Epcot VP, she will continue to report to Jim MacPhee.

Christine McCarthy Named New Disney Chief Financial Officer

Christine McCarthy  EVP, CRE Alliances & Treasurer The Walt Disney Comapny


Christine M. McCarthy has been picked as Disney’s new chief financial officer, marking the second time in recent weeks that the entertainment conglomerate has chosen a woman for a key post in its top executive ranks. The Walt Disney Company also named Kevin Mayer chief strategy officer, in a dual announcement by CEO Robert Iger.

McCarthy fills the spot vacated by Jay Rasulo, who announced earlier this month that he would leave the company, effective Tuesday.

Disney in May promoted Leslie Ferraro to the head of its consumer products operation, and that unit was merged this week with the company’s interactive division — putting Ferraro and a fellow executive in charge of a wide array of products and services from toys, to video games and beyond.

“Christine has done an incredible job as Disney’s treasurer over the past 15 years, and her strong leadership and keen financial acumen make her an ideal chief financial officer,” Iger said in a statement about his new CFO. “She is highly respected in the finance sector, and in this new role she will have even more impact on creating value for Disney shareholders.”

Iger also praised Mayer’s previous work in corporate strategy and business development during a time when Disney has been booming. He credited the executive with filling a key role as the company acquired three highly valued subsidiaries — Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

McCarthy will report to Iger while Mayer will report jointly to both Iger and Tom Staggs, who was elevated earlier this year to chief operating officer. That position makes Staggs the heir apparent to the chief executive’s office.

McCarthy said in a statement that she was “humbled and honored to be entrusted with the role of CFO of this incredibly dynamic company.” She praised Iger for the company’s financial performance. She most recently worked as executive VP, corporate real estate, alliances and treasurer. Among her team’s responsibilities were corporate finance, capital markets, financial risk, international treasury and investments, credit, and risk management.

Mayer served since 2005 as an executive VP for corporate strategy and business development. In his new assignment as chief strategy officer he will oversee strategy and business development, along with acquisitions, innovation, enterprise IT, brand and franchise management and global corporate alliances.

Prior to his most recent stint at Disney, Mayer had been a partner at L.E.K. Consulting, heading a global media and entertainment practice and, before that, chairman and chief executive of Clear Channel Interactive. He first came to Disney in 1993 as manager, strategic planning, spearheading strategy and business development for all of Disney’s interactive and television operations. He holds an MBA from Harvard.

McCarthy had previously been an executive VP and CFO of Imperial Bancorp and held other executive posts at Imperial and another bank. She holds an MBA from UCLA and serves in several non-profit posts, including as a trustee of the Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena and as a mentor for the National Math and Science Initiative’s STEM program. She was named this month as Treasury Today magazine’s Woman of the Year.

Disney Merges Disney Consumer Products and Disney Interactive

It’s not the case anymore that consumers separate technology from toys or even books, so The Walt Disney Co.  is streamlining its consumer products and interactive divisions. The company has combined its two smallest segments into Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI), which will be jointly led by co-chairs Leslie Ferraro, president of Disney Consumer Products, and Jimmy Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive.


“Both Disney Interactive and Disney Consumer Products have a strong track record of connecting people to their favorite stories and characters,” said Disney COO Tom Staggs in a statement. “As technology and digital entertainment continue to evolve, a shared innovation strategy will enable this new segment to create unique and engaging products and experiences that exceed consumers’ expectations.”

The new structure will “share technological expertise and maximize opportunities and efficiencies” as well as leverage Disney’s licensing and retail relationships across both divisions.


A new team called DCPI Labs will focus on using cutting-edge technologies to create new immersive products and report to both Ferraro and Pitaro. Disney Publishing Worldwide will also report to the new co-chairs, while functional areas such as finance, strategy and business development, technology, HR, and communications will be merged into joint teams.

Disney will begin reporting consumer products and interactive as one combined business as of the beginning of fiscal 2016.

In the most recent quarter, consumer products revenues grew 10 percent to $971 million, while operating income increased 32 percent to $362 million, and interactive revenues slipped 12 percent to $235 million while operating income surged 86 percent to $26 million.

Disney CEO Succession Path Cleared as CFO Jay Rasulo Resigns


The Walt Disney Co. said Monday that its chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo, will resign at the end of June, clearing the path for another top executive, Tom Staggs, to succeed Bob Iger as eventual CEO.

A new chief financial officer was not immediately named Monday, but Rasulo, 59, will serve as an adviser to assist in the transition.

“Jay has been a valued colleague and friend, as well as a vital contributor to Disney’s success,” Iger said in a statement.

Barton Crockett, a media company analyst with FBR Capital Markets & Co., said the move is clearly related to succession planning, something Disney has managed poorly in the past, especially with the resignation of Michael Eisner in 2005 following a shareholder revolt.

“Like so many things under Bob Iger, things are just working better now, including succession,” Crockett said.

Iger is to step down in 2018, having postponed his resignation twice, thanks to the board of directors push to continue with his success transforming the company, largely through the major acquisitions of Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm.

The possible promotion of 55-year-old Staggs was foreshadowed when he became chief operating officer, a newly created position, in February.

Disney has not officially named a successor to Iger.

Rasulo joined Disney in 1986, had been chairman of Disney’s parks and resorts division, and became CFO five years ago. He was also recently responsible for overseeing operations at YouTube channel operator Maker Studios.

Rasulo oversaw the major expansion of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland and the addition of two new cruise ships to Disney’s fleet. Rasulo said in a statement it was a “true honor” to work at Disney.

Disney Names Leslie Ferraro President of Consumer Products Unit

Leslie Farraro - Disney

Walt Disney Company on Thursday named its parks and resorts’ executive vice president of marketing, Leslie Ferraro, as president of its fast-growing consumer products division.

Ferraro, who has been with Disney since 1999, replaces Bob Chapek, who was appointed chairman of the company’s parks and resorts division in February.

Disney’s consumer products business includes toys, apparel, books and art based on the company’s extensive franchises, which it licenses to third parties or sells through its own stores.

The division’s revenue grew 10 percent to $971 million in the fiscal second quarter ended March 28.

In her previous role, Ferraro was responsible for consumer campaigns, marketing and sales for the company’s theme parks and resorts division.

WDI Recruits Advanced Robotics Expert to Work on Future Animatronic Figures

Martin Buehler


Walt Disney Imagineering has recruited Martin Buehler, a well known expert in the field of advanced robotics.

Buehler is most well known for his work on the Boston Dynamics ‘BigDog’ project

Buehler joins WDI at a critical time for Audio-Animatronics, as Disney looks to separate itself from the wider adoption of animated figures at other parks around the world.

The upcoming AVATAR project at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is expected to debut some next generation Audio-Animatronic figures to bring the AVATAR story to life.

Martin will lead WDI R&D’s Advanced Robotics and will take on the role of executive R&D Imagineer.


BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs muddy hiking trails, walks in snow and water, and carries 340 lb load.

Martin was also director of research at iRobot and a VP at Vecna Technologies

Disney Names Chapek Chairman of Parks and Resorts


Bob Chapek has been named Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, it was announced today by Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Thomas O. Staggs, Chief Operating Officer, The Walt Disney Company.

A 22-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company, Mr. Chapek has served since 2011 as President of Disney Consumer Products, driving a technology-led transformation of the Company’s consumer products, retail and publishing operations. He assumes his new role effective immediately.

“Under Bob’s leadership, Consumer Products has seen great success, focusing on brands and a franchise-driven strategy while launching new products and retail experiences that combine technological innovation and creativity,” Mr. Iger said. “He is an experienced and versatile executive well-suited to lead Parks and Resorts into the future.”

As Chairman of Parks and Resorts, Mr. Chapek succeeds Mr. Staggs, who was named Disney’s Chief Operating Officer earlier this month. Mr. Chapek will report to both Mr. Iger and Mr. Staggs.

“Bob is stepping into this role at an incredibly dynamic and exciting time for our Parks and Resorts business,” Mr. Staggs said. “The ongoing construction of Shanghai Disney Resort as well as the new Avatar-themed land at Walt Disney World continues an era of unprecedented growth and historic expansion.”

“I am grateful for the many opportunities I have had during my years at Disney, and am thrilled to join the incredible Disney Parks organization,” Mr. Chapek said. “I look forward to working with the remarkably talented team dedicated to creating magical memories for millions of guests around the world.” A successor to Mr. Chapek at Disney Consumer Products will be named at a later date.

Prior to leading Disney Consumer Products, Mr. Chapek served as President of Distribution for The Walt Disney Studios from 2009 to 2011, and was responsible for overseeing the Studios’ overall content distribution strategy across multiple platforms including theatrical exhibition, home entertainment, pay TV, digital entertainment and new media. He also served as President of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, where he spearheaded the successful “vault strategy” for the company’s iconic films and transformed the primary format of home entertainment from DVD to Blu-ray.

Before joining Disney in 1993, Mr. Chapek worked in brand management at H.J. Heinz Company and in advertising at J. Walter Thompson.

Mr. Chapek earned a B.S. in Microbiology at Indiana University Bloomington and an MBA from Michigan State University.

Disney Promotes Parks Chief Staggs, Seen as Successor to Iger

Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the New Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Walt Disney Company named Thomas Staggs, the head of its theme parks and resorts unit, as chief operating officer of the company on Thursday, putting him in the lead to succeed Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger in 2018.

Staggs will assume the role of COO immediately while he continues to run the parks business until a successor is named, Disney said in a statement.

Disney shares rose 1.2 percent to $102.52 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The 63-year-old Iger, who has led Disney to record profits, recently extended his contract for a second time through June 2018. Staggs and Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo have been considered the top candidates to replace Iger, Wall Street analysts said.

Disney operates television networks including ABC and ESPN, theme parks on three continents, a movie studio and gaming and consumer products divisions. The company blew past Wall Street estimates when it released quarterly results on Tuesday, driving its stock to record highs.

Staggs, 54, is a 25-year veteran of Disney and previously served as CFO. He became head of the parks division in 2010, when Iger switched the jobs of Rasulo and Staggs so each could broaden experience.

Is Disney CFO Jay Rasulo About to be Named COO?


From Variety

Jay Rasulo, senior executive VP and chief financial officer of the Walt Disney Co., whose longtime deal expires in two weeks, has not yet signed a new contract, according to a proxy statement the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

His decision to so far not file for an extension comes as Disney chief Bob Iger and the board are planning to name a chief operating officer by spring.

The new COO will most likely be groomed to replace Iger when he retires as chairman and CEO as planned on June 30, 2018. On March 12, Disney will hold its annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco, where 10 members of Disney’s board will be up for election, including Iger.

Rasulo isn’t the only executive vying for the post. Disney’s parks and resorts chief Thomas Staggs is also a serious contender for the COO role, and many believe he’s the frontrunner.

Rasulo, whose current deal expires Jan. 31, 2015, according to the proxy statement, is Disney’s second highest-paid executive behind Iger. In fiscal 2014, Iger earned $46.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation; Rasulo made $16 million, up from $10.7 million in fiscal 2013, the SEC document showed.

Given his financial experience, Rasulo could easily fit the bill of COO. And his reluctance to sign a new contract before Iger chooses a candidate makes sense. Working without a contract would give Rasulo the option to leave Disney without penalty should he oppose Iger’s choice.

According to the proxy statement, the increase in Rasulo’s earnings in 2014 was attributed to “effective management of efficiency across multiple areas of spending including leadership of a company-wide project that significantly reduced overhead costs over the past two years; leadership of multiple initiatives to build direct to consumer capabilities across the company through data analysis and the use of business intelligence technology” and his support of the acquisition and integration of Maker Studios, “opening a new content and distribution platform for the company.”

Rasulo’s ability to maintain a strong balance sheet, including successful debt offerings and negotiation of the recapitalization of Disneyland Paris; the continued reorganization and consolidation of corporate functions including sourcing and procurement, product integrity, cash forecasting, collections and corporate financial decision support; and management of philanthropic program, the Disney Citizenship group, also were cited.

Staggs previously spent 12 years as chief financial officer, also giving him the financial acumen for the COO position. He played a key role in acquiring Capital Cities/ABC, Pixar and Marvel, during which he worked closely with Iger. He first joined Disney as a manager of strategic planning in 1990.

He is in the midst of building Shanghai Disneyland, and expanding Animal Kingdom, in Orlando, with the addition of Avatar Land. Both parks are expected to be major revenue generators for the company. Parks and resorts are Disney’s second-largest contributor to its bottom line each year.

Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, a consortium of state-owned companies in China, have committed $5.5 billion to build Shanghai Disneyland, with the Mouse House operating the park and carrying a controlling 43% stake.

Meg Crofton to Retire in June 2015

Meg Crofton

Meg Crofton, who is a 35 year Walt Disney Company veteran,  has announced her intention to retire next ear.

60 year old Crofton said that she will leave her position as President, Operations, US and France to retire on June 1, 2015. There has not been a successor announced as of yet, with the company having nearly 6 months to fill the position that was created for Crofton in July 2011. Meg had previously served for 5 years as President of the Walt Disney World Resort.

In a short interview with an internal Disney publication, Meg shares some thoughts on retirement, and a reflection of her achievements with the company.

Why did you decide to retire?
Well, I never really had a plan for retirement. But I did, over the years, develop a couple of guiding principles. One of the most important was that I wanted to leave while I still had plenty of juice left for the next chapter in my life. I didn’t think about it very much until my 60th birthday, which was last year.

Looking back on it, I realize that it was a decision that I came to very gradually and almost not consciously. I loved what I was doing. I had just made a major move across country and was happily embracing my professional and personal growth opportunities and focusing on our parks and resorts in Florida, California and France. But my husband, Rich, has been retired for some time now, and I became increasingly aware that I really wanted to build our new west coast life with him in San Francisco.

I have so much respect and affection for those I am privileged to work with. As much as I will miss them and the many exciting projects ahead for our Company, the pull to start the next chapter of my life is stronger.

What do you want to do in retirement?
I want to continue my “heart” work of mentoring and helping others, enjoy lots of family time, take advantage of all that my new home city and surrounding countryside offers, do more traveling for pleasure and have a flexible calendar. And I am looking forward to doing all of that!

You have worked closely with your leader, Tom Staggs, for a number of years. Here is what he said:

Anyone who knows Meg knows how much she cares about this company and the dedication she has to anything she does. When she told me a while back about her decision to retire, it was clear that there was conviction in her decision. Her face lit up when she talked about how ready she was to start her next chapter with her husband, Rich. I couldn’t be any happier for her.

There are few people within Parks and Resorts who have inspired as many people and made as significant an impact as Meg has. She has devoted her career to nurturing countless cast members, encouraging them to achieve new heights, coaching them to succeed and helping them down the path, no matter where they wanted it to take them. She has amassed innumerable achievements over the years, literally spanning the globe. And for all that she has accomplished and all of whom she has helped, Meg has done it with an amazing sense of grace and humility, which is what I appreciate and respect the most about her.

Meg is not retiring until June 1, 2015, so we will be naming her successor at a later date. We have many more months to celebrate her and wish her well. I am thrilled that she will be working at Parks and Resorts until then.

Meg, any reaction?
I cannot thank Tom enough for his leadership, friendship, kindness, and unwavering support over the years. I am very excited to be a part of and continue working alongside this tremendous team for the months ahead. I intend to be fully present and enjoy every minute of it!

This is such an amazing company! With the passing of every year, I am more aware and grateful for the blessing of working for an organization whose purpose it is to bring happiness to people and give them cherished memories that last a lifetime. I collect wonderful quotes and found this one years ago…”Memory is a child walking along a sea shore. You can never tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.” We are so fortunate that at Disney it is their memories with us that our Guests store among their treasured things.

I am deeply proud of every moment I have spent here and feel richly blessed to have had a ringside seat to watch our Company’s special brand of magic touch hearts. I am so excited and confident about the future of our company and the direction of Parks and Resorts. Candidly, it is that excitement that makes my decision to retire so bittersweet.