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Disney Names Pleasants, Pitaro Interactive Heads

Walt Disney Co. named Playdom Chief Executive Officer John Pleasants and James Pitaro, head of Yahoo! Inc.’s media unit, co-presidents of the interactive media group, revamping digital operations to reverse losses.

The pair replace Steve Wadsworth, a 17-year Disney division head who left in September, the company said today in a statement. Pleasants and Pitaro, who start Oct. 18, will oversee the unit focused on the digital-games market and selling online sites based on Disney’s TV shows, movies and characters.

The appointments will allow Disney, world’s largest media company, to build upon the digital assets acquired in the past three years, Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said. The interactive business lost $130 million through the first nine months of the year, making it the only unprofitable division.

“We see this as a growth area and we need people experienced in how to best operate them,” Iger, 59, said in an interview today.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, rose 24 cents to $33.34 on Oct. 1. The shares have gained 22 percent during the past year, compared with an 11 percent increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

In 2007, Disney bought children’s social network Club Penguin for $350 million, following that this July with social-gaming site Playdom, paying $563 million. The company also has bought Wideload Games and mobile-content site Tapulous.

Iger said he intends to allow the two men “freedom” to run the units, and Pleasants will keep working from Playdom’s office in Palo Alto, California. Iger described the arrangement as similar to Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, which operates mostly independently of Disney’s film studio.

Pleasants, a former CEO at Ticketmaster, will oversee Playdom, Disney’s Club Penguin, the World of Cars virtual unit and Tapulous. Pitaro will run,, and its social-media marketing agency DigiSynd. At Yahoo, Pitaro expanded Yahoo! Sports and upgraded its news, finance, entertainment and lifestyle coverage, Disney said.

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