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What's the deal with Disneyland-Paris' new management team?

What's the deal with Disneyland-Paris' new management team?

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Hey, Gang!

Jim Hill here. It's a pleasure to welcome Andrea Monti -- aka MickeyFantasmic -- back to JHM. Once again, Andrea shines a spotlight on the latest behind-the-scenes doings over Disneyland Paris.

Many of you, I'm sure, are already aware that French theme-park operator Euro Disney SCA recently appointed Andre Lacroix (who was previously the president of Burger King International) as its new chairman and chief executive. This means that Mr. Lacroix succeeds Jay Rasulo, who (you may recall) the Mouse promoted last September to head up its worldwide theme park and resorts division.

So what does this all mean for the folks over at the Disneyland-Paris resort? Leave to Andrea to spell it all out for us in his imitable fashion.



There's good news coming from the other side of the Atlantic, my friends... The first bit of news being the green lighting of construction of the Tower of Terror ride in the Disney Studios Paris theme park. The second being the announcement that Andre Lacroix is to become the new CEO (or as the French like to call it, PDG. President Directer General) of EuroDisney S.C.A (the company that actually runs Disneyland Resort Paris).

This new appointment has been rumored for months now, and was eagerly awaited by fans, cast members, press and analysts since the very day Jay Rasulo succeeded Paul Pressler as Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. Since that day in September that Jay was called back to Burbank, the search for a new EuroDisney CEO was on. Even though Rasulo officially held his position as both head of theme parks worldwide as well as EuroDisney, it was only a matter of time 'til someone else was selected to to step into Jay's very-difficult-to-fill shoes.

So who did Mickey finally recruit to replace Jay? Andre Lacroix, a gentleman who was formerly the president of Burger King International.

Putting it bluntly, Lacroix is an executive who seems to have everything it'll take to succeed as EuroDisney's new CEO. Andre's 43 years old and a French native. He's fluent in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch, and holds a degree in management at the Paris Ecole de Commerce.

More importantly, Lacroix's ambitious. Though he only came on board with Burger King International (as General Manager of all the restaurant's chain German restaurants) back in 1996, he's had a meteoric climb. After effecting a turnaround of the German franchises (which had been constantly losing ground to McDonald's), Andrea was promoted to the President for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific in 1999. Which was followed closely by his promotion to President of Burger King International Europe & Asia in 2001.

Now where this gets interesting is that Yann Calliere, former vice president of operations at Disneyland-Paris, has been promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer. This effectively put Calliere in the number 2 position of the company. Which gives the Disneyland-Paris resort, for the second time in its history a European executive team. (The resort's first European executive team was back in 1994 - 1997 when Phillippe Bourguignon was Chairman and CEO of Euro Disney and Gilles Pellisson was the corporation's Chief Operating Officer).

So now that this new team is in place, what's going to happen at the Disneyland-Resort? Well, it's expected that Lacroix will be using his marketing savvy to help move the Parisian theme parks to a whole new level. While Calliere ...

Well, Yann is a Disney man. He knows the French theme parks inside and out. Over the past two years, Calliere practically ran the operational side of the resort all by himself (while Jay Rasulo was busy pulling the Walt Disney Studios theme park up out of the ground). Which is why DLPR cast members at all levels are reportedly thrilled that he's become the resort's new COO.

Calliere, along with Serge Naime (VP Finance) and Dominique Coquette (VP Strategies and External Affaires), have been running EuroDisney SCA since Rassulo took over Paul Pressler's job (even a Disney executive can't be in two places at the same time; no amount of pixie dust can pull that off). These 3 long-time Disney executives have a solid reputation of being devoted to the company. More importantly, the folks back in Burbank have been very appreciative of what these three have been able to accomplish.

In order to get this new Disneyland-Paris executive team up out of the ground, Michael Eisner himself had to fly over to Paris two weeks ago and give his personal blessing to this important change in Euro Disney management.

Lacroix and Calliere will officially be introduced to EuroDisney SCA shareholders in early May. (Which explains why the shareholders meeting -- originally scheduled for March 26th 0- was abruptly postponed earlier this month.)

Speaking of EuroDisney SCA and EuroDisney SA ... some Disneyana fans get confused by these very similar initials. Let me explain:

Back in the 1980s when Gary Wilson was devising the EuroDisney financial plan, he made the company a "Societe en Commandite par Action" (SCA). Why'd Wilson do that? Because French laws only allows a foreign investor to hold a maximum of 49.99% of the stock of a French-based company.

Gary then had the Walt Disney Company buy (through its Netherlands subsidiary) 39.1% of EuroDisney SCA stock (which it still holds, by the way). Wilson then had the Mouse create another company -- EuroDisney SA -- which became the "Gerant" of EuroDisney SCA.

So here we have a full blown European management team, plus the former top guy of EuroDisney (Rasulo) heading all the Mouse's theme parks worldwide, Walt Disney Studios getting a big new thrill ride, 4 new hotels opening over the next few months (under various deals with external companies such as Holiday in, Kyrad, etc), 1200 acres of land that have yet to be developed as well as two Imagineering teams (one in Glendale and one in Marne la Valle) pushing hard for new additions to the Parisian resort. All in all, it look like fun times ahead for the Disneyland-Paris Resort.

Mind you, it won't all be clear sailing. Lacroix will need to address a lot of issues over the next few weeks. EX: Disney Studios Paris had only 2.1 Million guests push through its gates in their first year of operation. This means that the theme park hasn't even come close to meeting its per capita predictions.

One thing's sure. With Rassulo now in charge of Disney Theme Parks and Resorts worldwide, Lacroix and Callier are sure to see some benefits. Should the current rumors pan out, at least two new E-Tickets as well as a few land enhancements are already in the pipeline for Walt Disney Studios.

Personally, I think that it's great that the Disneyland-Paris resort has survived its 11 year long roller coaster-like ride. How many of you recall -- exactly ten years ago -- that the hot rumor was that EuroDisney was about to declare bankruptcy... only to have Disney announce that "Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon" was in the works.

Andre, Yann ... from all of us here at Jimhillmedia.com as well as from Disneyland-Paris resort fans worldwide, good luck! You have a big challenge ahead of you but I'm certain that you're up to the challenge. :)

Best of luck,

Ciao for now,
Andrea Monti

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