Jay Rasulo, senior executive VP and chief financial officer of the Walt Disney Co., whose longtime deal expires in two weeks, has not yet signed a new contract, according to a proxy statement the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
His decision to so far not file for an extension comes as Disney chief Bob Iger and the board are planning to name a chief operating officer by spring.
The new COO will most likely be groomed to replace Iger when he retires as chairman and CEO as planned on June 30, 2018. On March 12, Disney will hold its annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco, where 10 members of Disney’s board will be up for election, including Iger.
Rasulo isn’t the only executive vying for the post. Disney’s parks and resorts chief Thomas Staggs is also a serious contender for the COO role, and many believe he’s the frontrunner.
Rasulo, whose current deal expires Jan. 31, 2015, according to the proxy statement, is Disney’s second highest-paid executive behind Iger. In fiscal 2014, Iger earned $46.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation; Rasulo made $16 million, up from $10.7 million in fiscal 2013, the SEC document showed.
Given his financial experience, Rasulo could easily fit the bill of COO. And his reluctance to sign a new contract before Iger chooses a candidate makes sense. Working without a contract would give Rasulo the option to leave Disney without penalty should he oppose Iger’s choice.
According to the proxy statement, the increase in Rasulo’s earnings in 2014 was attributed to “effective management of efficiency across multiple areas of spending including leadership of a company-wide project that significantly reduced overhead costs over the past two years; leadership of multiple initiatives to build direct to consumer capabilities across the company through data analysis and the use of business intelligence technology” and his support of the acquisition and integration of Maker Studios, “opening a new content and distribution platform for the company.”
Rasulo’s ability to maintain a strong balance sheet, including successful debt offerings and negotiation of the recapitalization of Disneyland Paris; the continued reorganization and consolidation of corporate functions including sourcing and procurement, product integrity, cash forecasting, collections and corporate financial decision support; and management of philanthropic program, the Disney Citizenship group, also were cited.
Staggs previously spent 12 years as chief financial officer, also giving him the financial acumen for the COO position. He played a key role in acquiring Capital Cities/ABC, Pixar and Marvel, during which he worked closely with Iger. He first joined Disney as a manager of strategic planning in 1990.
He is in the midst of building Shanghai Disneyland, and expanding Animal Kingdom, in Orlando, with the addition of Avatar Land. Both parks are expected to be major revenue generators for the company. Parks and resorts are Disney’s second-largest contributor to its bottom line each year.
Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, a consortium of state-owned companies in China, have committed $5.5 billion to build Shanghai Disneyland, with the Mouse House operating the park and carrying a controlling 43% stake.