Murphy ankles; will consult for Disney

NEW YORK — Walt Disney Co. elevated a strategic planning exec, Tom Staggs, to be CFO Wednesday in a move that coincided with the resignation of Staggs’ direct boss, chief strategic officer Larry Murphy.

Sources said Murphy was considered for the CFO position, made vacant by the resignation last month of Richard Nanula to become CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. It was not clear late Wednesday whether Murphy quit because he did not get the job, although sources say Murphy has been in talks for several weeks on a new job.

Murphy is to be replaced as chief strategic officer by Peter Murphy (no relation), a former strategic planning exec who last year was promoted to be CFO of ABC Inc. Ironically, Peter Murphy was the third person considered for the CFO job, sources said.

The appointment of Staggs, a 37-year old former investment banker with Morgan Stanley & Co., was praised by outsiders who know him. He is a “terrific guy cut in Richard Nanula’s image,” said one exec.

Staggs has been at Disney since 1990 in the strategic planning department, where he was the point person on many deals. Staggs was a “high quality guy,” said one investment banker.

Peter Murphy, 35, has been at Disney since 1988 when he joined as a senior planning analyst.

Disney chairman Michael Eisner said Staggs and Peter Murphy “are a testament to the depth of management of The Walt Disney Company. Both are experienced executives who have grown up at Disney and thoroughly understand our operating areas.”

Disney said Larry Murphy was quitting “to pursue other opportunities,” although Disney said he “would continue in a role for Disney as a consultant on strategic initiatives.”

Larry Murphy, who had run the strategic planning department for 13 years, did not return a call seeking comment. A Disney spokesman declined to comment on the short list for the CFO job and said he was not aware whether Larry Murphy left because he missed out on the CFO job.

The spokesman noted that the CFO and chief strategic planning officer were on the same level, both reporting to Eisner and Dsiney’s chief of corporate operations Sandy Litvack.

In a prepared statement, Eisner highlighted Larry Murphy’s role in bringing both Staggs and Peter Murphy into the company and that “his ability to recognize and recruit talent has provided Disney with excellent executives, including Tom Staggs and Peter Murphy.”

Wall Street analysts had little reaction to Staggs’ appointment, as he is not well known to analysts or investors. But one banker who knows Staggs said that “he is very well regarded” within Disney as a no-nonsense, “apolitical” exec.

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