Disney looks to Paris for parks spark

'Strategic thinker' Rasulo relocating to Burbank HQ

The House of Mouse wasted no time in tapping a new top honcho for the Magic Kingdom, crowning company vet and EuroDisney chief James “Jay” Rasulo as prexy of Disney’s theme parks and resorts division.

The appointment, announced Sunday, is effective immediately. Rasulo is expected to relocate to Disney’s Burbank headquarters as soon as possible.

“Jay has been instrumental in making Disneyland Resort Paris the most popular tourist destination in Europe,” head Mouseketeer Michael Eisner said. “His vision and extensive experience in the international arena will be invaluable as we continue to grow the business globally.”

Disney prexy Robert Iger called Rasulo a “strategic thinker, accomplished leader and effective operator.”

The appointment follows word last Thursday that well-regarded division prexy Paul Pressler would be ankling to take a CEO post at the Gap clothing company (Daily Variety, Sept. 27).

“This is one of the most exciting challenges of my 17 years with Disney,” said Rasulo, 46. “I’m honored to have this opportunity.”

In addition to overseeing core theme parks operations such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Rasulo will supervise Disney Cruise Line, Disney Regional Entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering, and the Anaheim Angels and Mighty Ducks pro sports teams. The Angels and Ducks are now up for sale.

Among current theme parks challenges are a post-Sept. 11 slide in international attendance at Mouse’s domestic parks. International initiatives include the construction of Hong Kong Disneyland, skedded to open sometime in 2005 or 2006.

Rasulo joined Disney in 1986 as a strategic planning exec. He served as senior VP corporate alliances from 1993-1995 and spent three years with Disney Regional Entertainment.

In 1998, Rasulo moved to Paris as exec veep of Disneyland Paris parent Euro Disney. He was upped to Euro Disney chairman-CEO in May 2000.

Earlier this year Disneyland Paris opened a second park, Walt Disney Studios. Disneyland Paris is currently in its 10th year.

An “international search” for Rasulo’s replacement is under way, and the native New Yorker will continue to oversee Euro Disney until a successor is named, officials said.

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