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New Executive for Disney Consumer Unit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co. continued to shake up its struggling consumer products unit, naming a 20-year Nike veteran on Monday as its president.

Andrew P. Mooney, most recently head of Nike Inc.'s global function and apparel business, was named president of Disney Consumer Products Worldwide. He succeeds Anne E. Osberg, who will leave the company. She had been in the post since 1997. Longtime Disney executive Barton K. “Bo” Boyd will remain chairman of the unit.

Disney’s consumer products division has been ailing for some time, suffering from slowing demand for merchandise pegged to its movies, TV shows and its classic characters. In addition, sales at Disney retail stores have been lagging too.

Licensed merchandise through deals with such companies as toy maker Mattel Inc. has been a critical part of Disney’s growth, especially in tandem with the revival of its animated film division in the late 1980s and in the 1990s. That led to demand for toys, T-shirts, figurines, backpacks, lunch boxes and scores of other items pegged to such hit films as “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The company also saw a revival of merchandise pegged to its classic animated characters such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White, often when one of its classic films was released for the first time on videocassette.

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But analysts believe Disney and other entertainment companies have saturated the market with licensed merchandise and have failed to freshen products as often as they should. Disney also has been criticized for having failed to keep up with the popular tastes of children, who have shown a big appetite for the edgier offerings from Nickelodeon and for such hit items as Pokemon trading cards.

“They need to be making product offerings that are more relevant to kids,” said Prudential Securities analyst Katherine Styponias. “The name and franchise has such a powerful meaning to consumers. Ultimately, it means good, wholesome family entertainment. But if they’re looking to go edgier, it’s a tricky business.”

Styponias said she believes that Mooney was an attractive candidate because of his work with the Nike brand name and also because he has a background with retailing.

Last month, Disney told analysts that it was planning to trim the number of its merchandise licensees to address the matter of market saturation. The company also is pushing to expand the unit’s growth abroad, to reinvigorate its stores and to freshen its merchandise offerings.

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