Disney restructuring continues

Top parks and resorts execs switch titles, responsibilities

Disney is about to pull an executive version of "Freaky Friday."

The conglomerate said Thursday that, beginning next year, CFO Tom Staggs will swap roles with parks and resorts chairman Jay Rasulo.

Disney CEO Robert Iger said the goal of the unusual move is to provide new experiences and opportunities to executives.

Pressed for a more meaty explanation, Iger simply stressed that the decision was his and he insinuated that other such initiatives could be forthcoming.

"I didn't give Tom a multiple choice in terms of where he was going to go," Iger told analysts Thursday on a conference call. "I made both Tom and Jay offers that I felt they couldn't refuse."

The switcheroo coincides with a major shake-up at the film studio, but Disney played down the timing as mere coincidence.

Nevertheless, insiders have said one reason studio head Dick Cook was pushed out two months ago was because other top execs, including Iger, were sometimes left in the dark as to what the studio was up to. Swapping execs every now and again could be a way of preventing such secrecy in the future.

"What we have said is that we're trying to break down silos and get people to think about more than their own particular areas," Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland said.

There was chatter Thursday that Iger might also be preparing Staggs for a COO title, so the experience of running the parks and resorts unit would come in handy. Currently, Disney has no COO.

"That speculation is unwarranted," Friedland said. "Everybody assumes that Tom wants to be COO. I have never heard that from him before. That's a ridiculous thing."

And Iger told analysts that the many jobs he has had since joining ABC more than three decades ago prepared him well for CEO. It's not a leap to infer that Iger, 58, expects that Staggs or Rasulo, both of whom are younger than he, could take over when Iger retires. Iger's contract runs through January 2013.

"Having benefited myself from being given new opportunities over the years, in some cases going to places and businesses I have not been in, I think I can particularly appreciate what a real opportunity this is for both of them," Iger said.

Staggs takes over parks and resorts in the midst of some important expansion, including an overhaul of California Adventure in Anaheim, the proposed theme park in Shanghai and the construction of a lavish resort in Hawaii.
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