Studio veteran Thomas Staggs was named Thursday as chief operating officer at Walt Disney Co. – a promotion that puts him in line to succeed Robert Iger as the next leader of the Burbank media and entertainment giant.
Staggs, 54, who will assume the position immediately, has been with Disney for almost 25 years, most recently as chairman of the parks and resorts segment. Prior to that he had been senior executive vice president and chief financial officer.
He assumes a role that has been vacant since Iger left the position in 2005 to become chief executive.
Iger said Staggs was the ideal person for chief operating officer because of his ability to lead at parks and resorts, and his tenure as finance chief.
“Tom is an incredibly experienced, talented and versatile executive who has led parks and resorts during a time of unprecedented growth and expansion, including the construction of Shanghai Disney Resort,” said Iger, in a prepared statement.
As leader of the parks and resorts segment since 2010, Staggs oversaw not only development of the Shanghai resort but expansions at Disneyland, Disney World, and Disney California Adventure, the launching of two new cruise ships and opening a new resort in Hawaii.
The segment has some 130,000 employees and is the second-largest company division behind the media unit, which includes ABC and cable networks ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family.
The appointment of Staggs follows Disney shares reaching an all-time high on Wednesday, when the stock topped $100. The company reported very strong quarterly earnings this week that outpaced analysts’ estimates.
But Disney has been concerned about clarifying who will replace Iger, 63, who most recently had his contract extended two years until June 2018. In appointing Staggs, the company bypassed Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, the other internal executive widely thought to have a shot at replacing Iger.
“I look forward to working more closely with Bob and the talented senior management team across the company to continue to build Disney’s future through unparalleled creativity, innovative technology and global expansion,” Staggs said in a prepared statement.
The appointment came despite the decision by Disney to delay opening of its massive Shanghai report from later this year until the first half of next, according to media reports. The company said it plans to start a search to find a new leader for its parks and resorts division.
Shares closed up $1.36, or more than 1 percent, to $102.64 on the New York Stock Exchange.