Walt Disney Co. on Thursday named Thomas O. Staggs its chief operating officer, making the parks chief the No. 2 executive at the world's largest entertainment company.
The move clarifies the succession planning at the Burbank-based company.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, who will turn 64 later this month, recently extended his contract and is expected to stay in the top job through June 2018.
In his new post, Staggs, 54, now is positioned as the top internal candidate to eventually succeed Iger.
Disney said in a statement that Staggs was stepping into the COO role immediately, and that it would launch a search for an executive to lead the parks and resorts division.
Staggs, a 25-year Disney veteran who previously served as chief financial officer, has managed the parks division for the last five years. He will continue to run the parks division while the search for a new division chief is proceeding.
Disney credits Staggs for leading the parks and resorts division through its largest period of growth and expansion, while also "generating record revenue, profit, and attendance levels," according to the company's website.
Staggs beat out another internal candidate, Jay Rasulo, who previously worked as the parks chief but more recently has served as CFO.
“Tom is an incredibly experienced, talented and versatile executive who has led parks and resorts during a time of unprecedented growth and expansion, including the construction of Shanghai Disney Resort," Iger said in a statement.
"His proven ability to lead a business as well as his successful tenure as Disney’s former CFO make him an ideal chief operating officer, expanding his portfolio into all the company’s businesses," Iger said.
Disney's stock has more than quadrupled since Iger took the top job in 2005.
The company's shares reached a new all-time high this week, closing on Thursday at $102.64 a share.
Staggs, an Illinois native, joined Disney in 1990 after serving as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley & Co. In 1998, he became the chief financial officer for Disney. In January 2010, he became chairman of Disney parks and resorts and Rasulo became the CFO.
Parks and resorts is the second-largest division at Disney behind the sprawling television group, which includes ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family. During the most recent quarter, parks revenue increased 9% to $3.9 billion.
Staggs leads a global team of more than 130,000 employees.
The division includes Disneyland in Anaheim, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, Disney Cruise Lines and the Aulani resort in Hawaii. One of the company's most ambitious projects is its Shanghai Disney Resort in China, which is expected to open in the spring of 2016.
During the 2014 fiscal year, Disney's parks and resorts division generated $15 billion in revenue, a 7% increase over the previous year period. Its operating income soared 20%.