Disney's consumer products chief has been named to lead the company's parks and resorts division and oversee the launch of the latest theme park in Shanghai.
Bob Chapek, a 22-year veteran of Walt Disney Co., replaces Tom Staggs, who this month was elevated to chief operating officer.
Stagg's promotion appears to put him in line to take over when Chief Executive Robert Iger retires, expected in 2018 when his contract expires. Chapek, 55, will report to Staggs and Iger.
Under Chapek, president of Disney's consumer products division since 2011, the group has been on a roll, thanks in part to merchandise from the popular animated movie "Frozen." The division posted record fiscal first-quarter results, with operating profit increasing 46% to $626 million from a year earlier.
"Under Bob's leadership, Consumer Products has seen great success, focusing on brands and a franchise-driven strategy while launching new products and retail experiences that combine technological innovation and creativity," Iger said in a statement.
Disney said a successor to Chapek in the consumer products division would be announced later.
"I look forward to working with the remarkably talented team dedicated to creating magical memories for millions of guests around the world," Chapek said in a statement.
Chapek is taking over the parks and resorts division, which has more than 130,000 employees, at a pivotal time. The company is building Shanghai Disney Resort, an approximately $5-billion project expected to open in spring 2016.
Before joining Disney in 1993, Chapek worked at H.J. Heinz Co. and J. Walter Thompson Worldwide.
Some Disney watchers had expected that Staggs would be replaced by George Kalogridis, a 43-year Disney veteran and president of the Disney resort in Orlando, Fla. Kalogridis, who worked his way up from a bus boy at a Walt Disney Hotel resort, oversaw operations at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim before moving to Orlando in 2013.
Chapek previously was president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, the company's film unit, and president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
Disney has a history of moving top executives into lateral positions to give them experience at each of the top divisions, said Robert Niles, founder of Themeparkinsider.com.
"When you get up to a certain level in Disney they try to see if you can get a feel for the broad range of things that Disney does," he said. Niles added that Chapek's consumer products experience may help the company boost sales of merchandise at the theme parks.