UPDATE: Disney CEO Bob Iger’s strategy thus far has been to promote from within. But he went outside for executives to run Disney’s interactive gaming, social networking, online content, and web and mobile group which he has been expanding recently with $1 billion in acquisitions to position the company on those platforms. Iger decided to split the top job of president: he announced today that Yahoo VP of Media Jimmy Pitaro will Co-President the Disney Interactive Media Group with John Pleasants who also continues as CEO of Playdom, the fast-growing social games publishing company recently acquired by Disney earlier this year for up to $763 million. Pleasants, who won’t be headquartered in Burbank, also will get involved with another recent Disney acquisition, the mobile publisher Tapulous. The moves come simultaneously with Steve Wadsworth exiting Disney Interactive last week. Pitaro was the boss behind three heavily trafficked parts of Yahoo: news, sports and finance and will continue overseeing content at Disney including Disney.com marketing, DigiSynd, advertising, and non-gaming mobile content. Pleasants will head gaming including mobile gaming. Among the name assets Pitaro and Pleasants will be guiding are the popular virtual world Club Penguin site (acquired before Disney interactive and gaming divisions were combined) and interactive Disney-branded sites like Fairies, Pirates of the Carribean, Toontown Online and The World of Cars Online. (See Disney announcement below.)
Yahoo’s controversial and annoying CEO Carol Bartz has talked about stability and marketshare and branding ever since she joined the portal giant back in January 2009. She may want to focus on staff retention instead. Three of the company’s top executives have bolted: besides the well-liked Pitaro, the other two Yahoo escapees are EVP of sales Hilary Schneider and North American mobile ops head David Ko. The fleeing couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Yahoo which is already in the middle of a major culture shift as it transfers all of its search capabilities to Microsoft’s Bing, which in turn is having a tough time vs. Google. Though this executive defection occurred on Bartz’s watch, the problems at Yahoo began with Terry Semel and kept going though Jerry Yang (who co-founded the company and took back control for awhile.) What’s worse, Yahoo’s stock has dropped about $15 this year. So for all the cost-cutting and bravado Bartz has introduced to the company, it doesn’t look like any of it is paying off. Then again, she only has 18 months left on her contract right now.
BURBANK, Calif., October 3, 2010 — John Pleasants and James Pitaro have been named Co-Presidents, Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG), it was announced today by Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger.
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