Disney Parks West President Catherine Powell has reportedly seen her position eliminated by Disney following the failure of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Disney World.
The Hollywood Reporter reports, “It’s understood from sources at Disney that Powell’s post has been eliminated.” They report she will stay on board to help transition her staff to report to Disney Parks, Experiences & Products chairman Bob Chapek.
According to Blog Mickey, Powell had been with Disney for 15 years. She had previously been the President of Disneyland Paris, the Managing Director of The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand. She was also the head of Media Distribution division in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. She also served as the Senior Vice President of Disney’s Media Distribition in the UK, Ireland, France, Nordic, Benelux, and Israel. She was also the Executive Director for sales in the UK and Ireland. She originally joined the company as Creative Director of the Portfolio Development Group in 2004.
The report comes just a day after Disney CEO Bob Iger promised those reporting to him would be more diverse. Iger told the New York Times, “I’ll change that before I leave.” (Related: CEO Bob Iger Confirms Diversity Agenda at Disney)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Struggling
The move to eliminate the position comes after Disney admitted in their Q3 Financial Report and on their Q3 Investor’s Call that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland had lower than expected attendance. In fact, they saw attendance decrease by 3%. (Related: Disney CEO Bob Iger Confirms Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Attendance Lower Than Expected)
Disney’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy stated:
“I just want to put more granularity on the Disney Land results for the quarter. As I said, the attendance was down 3% but the paid attendance was up in the quarter and that lower attendance was primarily driven by the annual pass holder visitation and when we look at the, the per cap spend across Disneyland all categories, they were up significantly year-over-year.”
Following that report, a rumor circulated that Disneyland was still struggling with attendance and that Slinky Dog and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster were outperforming Millenium Falcon Smuggler’s Run. (Related: Rumor: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Failing at Both Disney World and Disneyland – Disney “Desperate” For Attendance)
On top of that, Peter Werner the co-owner of Dreams Unlimited Travel indicated there was trouble at both Disneyland and Disney World:
“I will tell you something’s up. Something is up. I can not say definitively if we have reached that tipping point. But there are things that are happening that are unusual. For example, we had, I believe, the single largest price increase for annual passes just recently prior to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opening.”
“I will tell you that package sales to Walt Disney World are down significantly. I will tell you anecdotally that traffic in the parks is lower than we’ve seen it in awhile. I will tell you based on the last quarter’s earnings report from Disney, they acknowledged that traffic over the summer: down.”
He then noted that Disney is running discounts he’s never seen for Disneyland and that they even removed cast blackouts at Disney World meaning Disney employees have access to the parks. They normally are restricted to certain times in order to ensure the parks don’t get clogged up.
Walt Disney World Executives Eliminated
Disney also eliminated a number of executive positions at Walt Disney World. Mickey Blog reported earlier this month:
“According to multiple sources, the parks and resorts are going through a restructuring that has seen some salaried managers and other high level executives lose their jobs. We’re told that the majority of the executives that lost their jobs were considered to be financial bloat, perhaps not retiring as quickly as Disney would have liked. Sources indicated that this wasn’t a massive layoff of all positions like what was seen in 2009, but rather a way for Disney to force retirement on executives who were either preventing lower level managers from moving up, or those whose salary was considered non-essential financial bloat.”
Disney has also been accused of fraud. Former Disney employee Sandra Kuba accused the company of inflating their revenue in their parks department. She claims they did so by including free guest promotions as revenue, recording discounted gift cards at the full price, and counting gift cards twice. Kuba filed a complaint with the SEC back in 2017. (Related: Former Disney Accountant Sandra Kuba Claims Company Inflated Revenue By Billions)
Former Lousiana Attorney General Charles Foti and his law firm Kahn Swick & Foti LLC announced he was launching an investigation into “whether Disney’s officers and/or directors breached their fiduciary duties to Disney’s shareholders or otherwise violated state or federal laws” based on Kuba’s SEC complaint. (Related: Former Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Launches Investigation into Accounting Fraud Allegations Against Disney)
Disney claims Kuba’s complaints are “unsubstantiated.” A Disney spokesperson stated:
“The claims presented to us by this former employee — who was terminated for cause in 2017 — have been thoroughly reviewed by the company and found to be utterly without merit; in fact, in 2018 she withdrew the claim she had filed challenging her termination. We’re not going to dignify her unsubstantiated assertions with further comment.”
What do you make of Disney eliminating their Disney Parks West President position? Do you think it’s connected with the struggles of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and/or the fraud allegations?