Nearly three months after Bob Iger abruptly stepped down as CEO of the Walt Disney Company and Bob Chapek ascended to the position, the latter’s replacement at Parks, Experiences and Products has been named. With this comes other departures from Disney, plus a new leadership team for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the international theme parks.
In this post, we’ll cover the shake-up at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (previously Parks & Resorts…which is what it should still be called) along with brief bios of the newcomers, some thoughts on the changes, and other assorted commentary.
For starters, with this announcement comes the departure of Disney’s top streaming executive, Kevin Mayer (per the New York Times). He will become the new chief executive of TikTok, a social media app for making and sharing short videos that has exploded in popularity of late…
Prior to Bob Chapek being named CEO, there was widespread speculation that Kevin Mayer was poised to take the helm of Disney, particularly given the spectacular early success of Disney+ and some stumbles of the theme parks last year. It’s thus not incredibly surprising that Mayer would leave Disney after being passed over for the top spot.
Nevertheless, Mayer’s departure is a big blow for Disney’s nascent streaming service. While Disney+ has blown past all expectations in amassing 55 million subscribers, it faces challenges ahead. Streaming competition is heating up and new content production is difficult right now; retaining subscribers and avoiding churn could be an issue on the horizon for Disney Plus.
Replacing Mayer as Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International is Rebecca Campbell. She will oversee Disney’s global streaming businesses, including Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, and Hotstar. Her portfolio also includes Disney’s International Channels, Fox Networks International, and Star India. Prior to this, Campbell was President of Disneyland Resort.
Moving along to the good news, the Walt Disney Company has named Josh D’Amaro the new Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. He will be joined by a newly-announced leadership team that includes Jeff Vahle, Ken Potrock, Kareem Daniel, and Thomas Mazloum.
Prior to this, Josh D’Amaro has served as President of Walt Disney World Resort; he succeeds Bob Chapek in the position. As Chairman, D’Amaro will oversee Disney’s global theme parks and resorts, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, and global consumer products operations.
You might recall our praise for Josh D’Amaro in the article, “Walt Disney World Investing Millions on Cast Morale” from a few months ago. That offers a more detailed bio about D’Amaro and his various roles with the Walt Disney Company, especially at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
As discussed in the aforementioned post, we’ve noticed that Josh D’Amaro often appears in random places throughout the parks without a huge posse, interacting with Cast Members and guests. While being publicly visible isn’t necessarily the mark of a good leader, it is nice for Walt Disney World to have someone who is exposed to and engaged with the guest and Cast Member experience. Spending time in the parks, seeing what guests and frontline Cast Members see isn’t always the norm for leadership.
Beyond that, everyone we know who worked under D’Amaro has nothing but effusive praise and glowing things to say about him. By all of their accounts, he’s the real deal and the type of leader Disney needs for its theme parks.
In other words, Josh D’Amaro moving up is great news for Disney Parks & Resorts as a whole. Our only “regret” about this move is that he won’t be the one personally shepherding Walt Disney World through what’s likely going to be a tough recovery, and into its historic 50th Anniversary.
Nevertheless, this should be a net positive for the Walt Disney Company. D’Amaro can make a bigger impact from the more powerful role; hopefully his management ethos and view of Disney’s theme parks will permeate the entire division. In a relatively short tenure, D’Amaro was far and away the most well-liked President of Walt Disney World in recent memory; his successor has big shoes to fill.
In conjunction with Mr. D’Amaro being named Chairman, the following key appointments have been made to the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products executive leadership team:
- Jeff Vahle, formerly President of Disney Signature Experiences, becomes President of Walt Disney World
- Ken Potrock, formerly President of Consumer Products, becomes President of Disneyland Resort
- Kareem Daniel, formerly President, Walt Disney Imagineering Operations/Product Creation/Publishing/Games, has been named President, Consumer Products, Games and Publishing.
- Thomas Mazloum, who was Senior Vice President of Resort and Transportation Operations at Walt Disney World Resort, becomes President, Disney Signature Experiences.
Continuing in roles as part of the executive leadership team for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products are:
- Michael Colglazier, President & Managing Director, Disney Parks International
- Jill Estorino, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales
- Margaret Giacolone, Chief Counsel
- Tami Garcia, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion
- Alannah Hall-Smith, Senior Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
- George Kalogridis, President, Segment Development and Enrichment
- Kevin Lansberry, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- Tilak Mandadi, Executive Vice President, Digital and Chief Technology Officer
- Bob Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering
Readers of this blog will most likely be interested in the bios of the new Presidents of Walt Disney World and Disneyland, so we’ll briefly cover those. First up, Jeff Vahle, the new President of Walt Disney World Resort. Vahle is a 30-year Cast Member who most recently served as President, Disney Signature Experiences (Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, Golden Oak, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa).
Jeff Vahle began his Disney career in 1990, and has held a series of leadership roles in operations, engineering, technology, and global support services. It’s unclear from his bio whether Vahle has any direct theme park experience, but he is actively involved in the Central Florida community, currently serving as chairman of the board of directors for Give Kids the World and as a member of the Rollins College Board of Trustees.
Ken Potrock, formerly President of Consumer Products takes the helm as President of Disneyland Resort. Potrock has nearly 25 years experience with Disney, and despite coming directly from Consumer Products, he has more than two decades of leadership experience at Disney Parks.
Previously he served as the SVP and GM of Disney Vacation Club and Adventures by Disney. Before that, he led the expansion and reimagining of Disney Springs and served as SVP of Disney Sports Enterprises, where he led the transformation of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
As we’ve noted before, it’s difficult to assess leadership changes at the Walt Disney Company from the outside looking in. At the top, this seems like one huge net positive in Josh D’Amaro moving up and one big loss with Kevin Mayer departing Disney. It also potentially puts D’Amaro on track to be Disney’s future CEO, which could come sooner rather than later depending upon how the current crisis shakes out.
How the rest of the changes shake out in terms of pros and cons is anyone’s guess. In general, we remain incredibly disappointed by the consolidation of Parks & Resorts and Disney Consumer Products. These were both massive business units each with unique characteristics and priorities. Lumping them together and treating the leaders of the two divisions as interchangeable is concerning, and is clear insight into how the Walt Disney Company views its theme parks. There’s a reason “Chairman of shopDisney, ESPN & Pixar Animation Studios” is not a real position. It’s equally incongruous to consolidate Parks & Resorts and Consumer Products together into a single division.
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Thoughts on these leadership changes? Disappointed to see Kevin Mayer leaving Disney Plus? Happy to see Josh D’Amaro moving up, or concerned about him not focusing specifically on Walt Disney World? Thoughts about anyone else named to the new Parks & Resorts leadership team? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!