Disney picks Playdom chief, Yahoo veteran to head interactive group


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Walt Disney Co. has named a new leadership team for its interactive group, dividing the duties between two veterans from the worlds of video games and online media.

John Pleasants, the chief executive of social gaming company Playdom, which Disney acquired in July for $563 million, will oversee the company’s games business. Jimmy Pitaro, a nine-year veteran of Yahoo Inc. who most recently served as vice president in charge of the media group, will run Disney Online. The pair will together serve as co-presidents of Disney Interactive Media Group and report to the media conglomerate’s chief executive, Bob Iger.


Steve Wadsworth, the former head of Disney Interactive Media Group, unexpectedly left his post a little more than a week ago.

Pleasants, who will continue to work out of San Francisco and run Playdom, has built one of the most successful companies in the red-hot space of online social games. But he also had experience in the more traditional business of console gaming, having previously served as chief operating officer of Elecronic Arts Inc.

He will oversee all of Disney’s video-game business, including console titles, mobile and online games, and Web-based virtual worlds such as Club Penguin and the recently launched World of Cars.

Pitaro, meanwhile, will oversee all of Disney’s non-gaming online content, primarily centered around its portal. He joined Yahoo in 2001 when it acquired his former employer, online music company Launch, and had since held a number of jobs in its Santa Monica media-group offices.

Iger consolidated Disney’s gaming and Internet operations into the interactive media group in 2008 and put Wadsworth, who previously oversaw Disney Online, in charge. In that time, it has failed to reach profitability.

Pleasants and Pitaro ‘have outstanding track records in anticipating trends and delivering to consumers creative, innovative and successful experiences and products,’ Iger said in a statement. ‘As co-presidents, I’m confident they will make Disney’s digital content and businesses even more robust and successful.’

-- Ben Fritz


Head of Disney Interactive to leave