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The Business of Magic
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Alex Stroup, Editor

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

A look at the division and its leaders as Disneyland approaches 50 years

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
By Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

“ [I]t all started from a Daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them too.”

That's what Walt Disney told Fletcher Markle about Disneyland in an interview back in 1963, eight years after Disneyland opened and eight years before Walt Disney World would open. Indeed, one wonders what Walt would have thought of his company's theme park division today, just over a month from Disneyland's 50th birthday.

Today, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division (WDP&R) is responsible for 11 theme parks at five resorts (including Hong Kong Disneyland), plus two cruise ships. As of September, it will oversee 38 hotels with over 36,000 rooms (including Disney Vacation Club timeshare resorts). It employs some 81,000 people (almost 119,000 if you include the resorts in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, which are officially separate business entities). WDP&R also is responsible for Walt Disney Imagineering, the ESPN Zone restaurants, the World of Disney store in New York City and even the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team, the sale of which is pending approval by the National Hockey League (and, until recently, the Anaheim Angels baseball team).

The division was responsible for over 25% of both Disney's total revenues and operating income for the 2004 fiscal year, despite the drag of capital expenditures at Disneyland Resort Paris and the yet-to-open Hong Kong Disneyland.

So let's take a closer look some of the key players in the division.

Jay Rasulo

The President of WDP&R is James A. (Jay) Rasulo, who came to the position in 2002 after four years at Euro Disney SCA, the corporation that officially owns the Disneyland Resort Paris. Rasulo served at executive vice president, then president and chief operating officer, before becoming chairman and CEO of Euro Disney SCA in May, 2000. Rasulo started at the Walt Disney Company in 1986, working in the Corporate Strategic Planning, Corporate Alliances and Disney Regional Entertainment areas.

Domestic enterprises

Disneyland President Matthew A. (Matt) Ouimet was named to the position in October 2003. Prior to that, he served as president of Disney Cruise Line for four years. Ouimet joined the Walt Disney Company in 1986, working at the Disney Development Company (now part of Walt Disney Imagineering), Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Vacation Club and Disney's Wide World of Sports, all part of the WDP&R division.

Walt Disney World President Allen R. (Al) Weiss has been at the resort almost since it opened. Weiss started working at Walt Disney World in 1972, fresh out of high school, at a wage of $2.50 per hour. Since then, he's held over 20 different positions on his way to his current post.

The president of Disney Cruise Line is Thomas M. (Tom) McAlpin, who took over in September, 2004. McAlpin has been with Disney Cruise Line since its inception, when he was hired as vice president of finance and chief financial officer. He was involved in many of the major early events in the Line's life, including development of the company's original business plan and the negotiation and purchase of both ships and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. McAlpin reports to Al Weiss.

The Disney Vacation Club is led by James M. (Jim) Lewis, who has held the title of senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Development, Inc., since November, 2003. Lewis had previously held the title of senior vice president of government relations and public affairs at Walt Disney World. Lewis reports to Al Weiss.

Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) is headed by Martin A. (Marty) Sklar, vice chairman and principal creative executive of WDI. Sklar joined Disney for good in 1956, after a summer job in 1955 where he created The Disneyland News, which was sold on Main Street, U.S.A. during Disneyland's first year. Sklar, considered by many the "keeper of the torch" for his knowledge and connection to Walt Disney, wrote many of Walt's speeches, scripts and official communications and worked his way up through the ranks of WED Enterprises, which later became WDI, and was named president of WDI in 1987. When WDI merged with the Disney Development Company in 1996, he was named vice chairman.

Rounding out the domestic leadership team is Donald W. (Don) Goodman, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Creative Entertainment and Disney Regional Entertainment, who is responsible for overseeing the ESPN Zone chain, among other responsibilities.

Foreign enterprises

Tokyo Disney Resort is an unusual part of the WDP&R, as Disney has no ownership interest in the resort at all. The resort is 100 percent owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, which pays Disney royalties based on the revenues generated by the resort. Effective June 29, Oriental Land President Toshio Kagami will become chairman and chief executive officer, a newly created post. Yoshiro Fukushima, senior executive managing director, will be president and chief operating officer.

Disneyland Resort Paris is 100 percent owned and run by Euro Disney SCA, which in turn is 41 percent owned by The Walt Disney Company. The resort had a leadership change just last month, when CEO Andre Lacroix resigned and was replaced by president and COO Karl Holz. Lacroix had steered the company past near-bankruptcy and had managed to secure financing for the resort to invest in the construction of additional attractions. Holz, Euro Disney's sixth CEO in the resort's thirteen year history, had joined Euro Disney as president and COO in September, 2004, from his previous position as president of the Disney Cruise Line. Holz joined Disney in 1996, and has also served as senior vice president of Walt Disney World Operations.

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opens on September 12 of this year, and is 43 percent owned by The Walt Disney Company. It is currently headed by Donald C. (Don) Robinson, group managing director and executive vice president. Robinson was appointed to head the Hong Kong Disneyland project in 2000. He started his career in 1972 as a dishwasher at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Since then, he has worked in theme park operations, hotel management and food and beverage services. He has been involved in the opening of parks and resorts at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland in California.

Walt Disney may not have pictured five resorts with eleven theme parks, plus a cruise line before he died back in 1966, but he probably would have been pleased with the team running the operations today, as all seem genuinely concerned with the guest experience.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Name here.


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