Paul Pressler, who directed Disney’s ambitious Anaheim expansion, has added the Angels and Mighty Ducks to his portfolio.
Pressler, a rising star among Disney executives, is expected to raise the profile of the teams within a company sometimes ambivalent about them. Pressler, the chairman of Disney’s Parks and Resorts division, now counts Paul Kariya and Tim Salmon among the 70,000 employees worldwide he oversees.
Disney has long classified Anaheim Sports, the unit that runs the Angels and Ducks, in a business division that includes theme parks, hotels and cruise ships. However, Anaheim Sports President Tony Tavares reported directly to former Disney vice chairman Sandy Litvack. When Litvack retired Dec. 31, becoming a part-time consultant, Chairman Michael Eisner directed Tavares to report to Pressler.
“I can’t overstate how highly respected this guy is within the company,” Litvack said. “Between the parks and his retail background, and his great clout within the company, he’s a guy that can bring synergy to the fore.”
Pressler, 44, said through a spokesman he would defer comment on his plans for the Angels and Ducks until he is more familiar with their operation. Tavares characterized the move as nothing more than his reporting to a different executive and said there have been no changes in the daily operations of the teams.
Tavares signed a three-year contract extension last year. Litvack said he expected Pressler to support, not overturn, the front office of the Angels and Ducks.
Pressler and Cynthia Harriss, his successor as Disneyland president, have participated in recent Anaheim Sports marketing meetings. Litvack also sat in on similar meetings, but his background is in law; Pressler’s is in marketing.
And, after spearheading a $1.4 billion Anaheim expansion that included the California Adventure theme park adjacent to Disneyland and the Downtown Disney entertainment promenade, Pressler is likely to accelerate integration of the Angels and Ducks into promotional efforts. The new ESPN Zone restaurant plans to operate shuttles to Angel and Duck games and allow fans to buy tickets at the restaurant, and hundreds of participants in next month’s ESPN extreme-sport competition in the Edison Field parking lot can eat, shop and play at the expanded Disneyland resort down the street.
Disney embraced professional sports in 1993, when the Mighty Ducks debuted to sellout crowds and set records for merchandise sales. But they have floundered on the ice and at the gate, and a team that produced windfall profits in its infancy is expected to lose money for the third consecutive season.
In the interim, Disney bought the Angels for $140 million and spent another $88 million in transforming an ugly, cavernous stadium into a cozy, whimsical ballpark. However, Eisner appeared to distance the company from professional sports by changing the name of Disney Sports Enterprises to Anaheim Sports, Inc.
The Angels have been competitive in three of five seasons under Disney ownership, but in a major league baseball report the team claimed losses of $83 million from 1995-99, a figure exceeded in those years only by the Giants and Blue Jays.