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Veteran Walt Disney Co. executive Leslie Ferraro departing company

Leslie Ferraro, the co-chair of Walt Disney Co.'s newly created consumer products and interactive media unit, is departing the company.

Burbank-based Disney said Monday that James Pitaro, who had served as co-chair of the division alongside Ferraro, would become its chairman effective immediately.

Ferraro worked at Disney for 17 years and was named president of Disney Consumer Products in May. The unit merged with the interactive division in June and Ferraro and Pitaro, who previously headed the interactive business, then became co-heads of the enlarged group.

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The company said Ferraro was leaving to "pursue marketing and consumer engagement projects, with Disney as her first client." Prior to her role with the consumer products group, Ferraro had served as executive vice president of global marketing, sales and travel operations for the company's parks and resorts division.

"I am excited to pursue my long-term passion for marketing, branding and creating winning consumer engagement strategies," she said in a statement.

Disney did not make Pitaro and Ferraro available for interviews.

Ferraro is leaving the company after her division posted a strong fiscal first quarter. For the three-month period ending Jan. 2, the consumer products and interactive media unit reported operating income of $860 million -- an increase of 23%. Revenue was up 8% to $1.9 billion. The company attributed the unit's success in part to merchandising revenue related to the hit film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Ferraro's exit comes after a period of consolidation and other changes at Disney. She became president of the consumer products group after previous head Bob Chapek was named chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in February 2015. Chapek replaced Thomas Staggs, who that same month was elevated to chief operating officer.

A month after Ferraro got the top job at Disney Consumer Products, the unit was combined with the interactive division.

The merger was seen as an indicator of technology's ability to erase boundaries between formerly distinct businesses. Disney offers several products that combine traditional playthings and digital media, among them the video game franchise "Disney Infinity" and the Playmation line of wearable toys.

Pitaro will continue to report to Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger and Staggs.

"I’m incredibly honored to lead such a talented team as we combine our technology-driven efforts and our more traditional product lines and retail operations to deliver amazing new merchandise and experiences that will build on Disney’s record for consistently exceeding consumer expectations,” Pitaro said in a statement.

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