John Pleasants Out as Co-President of Disney Interactive; Jimmy Pitaro Takes Helm of Group

Exec's departure comes after Disney scored with 'Disney Infinity' game

Disney Interactive

In a surprise move, John Pleasants has stepped down as co-president of Disney Interactive.

Move comes as the Walt Disney Co. said Monday it will merge all game and online operations under Jimmy Pitaro, who already is based in Los Angeles. Pleasants, the company’s games guru, recently launched “Disney Infinity,” and is based in San Francisco.

“Following three years of consistent operating improvement at Disney Interactive and a great partnership between John and Jimmy, we are now in a position to fulfill our original objective to consolidate our Interactive business under one Los Angeles-based leader,” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, the Walt Disney Co.

“With Jimmy and John’s input, we have created an Interactive organization that is best structured to meet the demands of the fast-moving technology industry,” Iger added. “I thank John for his many contributions to Disney Interactive including building tentpole products like ‘Disney Infinity’ and establishing the company as a leading mobile games publisher and appreciate his passion for bringing Disney experiences to guests on new platforms.”

Re-org is meant to enable Disney to take better advantage of merging web and mobile entertainment platforms, the company said, and embrace a single strategy to generate revenue from its franchises.

Having two presidents simply proved too complicated for Disney Interactive, especially with leaders who wanted more resources for areas they were interested in building at the company.

Pleasants and Pitaro had been co-presidents of the group since October 2010. Pleasants landed the position after Disney acquired his social gaming company Playdom for $563 million in July 2010.

Playdom, however, hasn’t proved as lucrative of a purchase as Disney had hoped, with mobile games proving a more successful area for Disney.

Under Pleasants, Disney did recently score with the launch of new game “Disney Infinity,” which competes with Activision’s hit “Skylanders” franchise. It also oversees popular kids destination Club Penguin, and is behind mobile hits “Where’s My Water?” and the more recent spin-off “Where’s My Mickey?”

SEE ALSO: ‘Disney Infinity’ Reaches 1 Million Global Sales Milestone

In a statement, Pitaro said Pleasants “has been critical in helping Disney Interactive build a great foundation off of which we will continue to deliver quality interactive games, mobile and web experiences that entertain and engage our guests.”

“I am extremely proud of the work our teams have done to create leading interactive games and experiences for our guests,” Pleasants said in a statement. The former chief operating officer at Electronic Arts and CEO of Ticketmaster added, “through quality and innovation, the business is generating tangible results and momentum, and I am confident that consolidating our collective efforts at this time will lead to even greater acceleration.”

Disney Interactive showed a positive sign of growth during Disney’s fourth quarter, which wrapped Sept 28, when it reported sales of $396 million and profits of $16 million, a positive sign for a division that has long struggled to turn a profit.

The group was losing $300 million a year when Pleasants and Pitaro took over in 2010. In fiscal 2013, it reduced that to a loss of $78 million