Disney Names Pitaro Sole Interactive Head, Pleasants Out

Walt Disney Co. named Jimmy Pitaro sole president of its interactive business, assuming duties held by John Pleasants in a shake-up less than a week after the unit reported its second-ever quarterly profit.

Disney is merging the games and media operations within interactive as part of the change, the Burbank, California-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Pleasants, who was co-president with Pitaro, becomes a consultant.

The company is consolidating the interactive business under a single leader after the successful introduction of the Disney Infinity game system that Pleasants oversaw. The moves comes as Infinity, combining collectibles with video games, gears up to challenge the “Skylanders” products from Activision Blizzard Inc. during the holiday season.

“Disney’s stated goal is to improve the profitability of that division, and I would expect that to continue to be the primary focus,” said Laura Martin, an analyst with Needham & Co. in Los Angeles who has a hold rating on the stock.

The change isn’t likely to have a meaningful impact on Disney’s earnings over the next 12 months, Martin said.

Disney fell 0.4 percent to $68.34 at the close in New York. The stock has gained 37 percent this year, compared with 20 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Interactive Profit

The interactive division posted a profit of $16 million in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 28, as sales more than doubled to $396 million with the release of the Infinity system, Disney said on Nov. 7. The unit lost $76 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

“This successful launch drove Disney Interactive’s swing to profitability in Q4 and all indications suggest the strong demand for Disney Infinity will continue,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said on a conference call last week.

Disney named the two men co-presidents of interactive in October 2010. Pitaro hailed from Yahoo! Inc.’s media unit, while Pleasants led Playdom, a games company that was purchased by Disney in 2010 for as much as $563 million.

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