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Steve Wadsworth

Disney Interactive Media

THE DEALMAKER: Disney hasn’t always been the smartest player in the dot-com space.

Its focus on turning Go.com into a major portal was a bust during the first boom. Other efforts like getting kids to pay to play on Toontown, investments in Movielink or creating a viable business out of Movies.com fizzled.

But Steve Wadsworth is helping Disney turn things around on the Web.

Over the past year, he got the Mouse House to pony up $700 million to buy Club Penguin, a popular virtual world for kids. The site got $350 million in cash up front and could earn another $350 million if it reaches growth targets by 2009.

“A lot of it already lines up the things we want to do,” Wadsworth said upon its acquisition. Wadsworth was one of the founders of Disney’s Internet efforts when the company formed Disney Online in 1995; he became prexy of Walt Disney Internet Group in 1999.

At that time, he also oversaw the revamp of Disney.com and created Disney Online Studios to produce games, other virtual worlds and online communities.

The Internet division is expected to ramp up its online efforts even further under Wadsworth’s leadership.

In June, the Mouse House merged Walt Disney Internet Group and Disney Interactive to form Disney Interactive Media Group in order to produce digital entertainment for multiple platforms, including computers, mobile phones and videogame consoles.

“Ultimately, what this game is about is creating phenomenal creative product,” Wadsworth said at a conference in May.

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