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PRESSLER TO LEAD THE GAP DISNEY LOSES EXEC TO S.F. FIRM.

Byline: Greg Hernandez Staff Writer

In a surprise move, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Paul Pressler - a well-regarded executive within The Walt Disney Co. - is leaving to become the top executive of San Francisco-based Gap Inc., it was announced Thursday.

Pressler's departure comes as Disney's theme parks are suffering major attendance woes due to the struggling U.S. economy and unrest in the Middle East and Asia. In taking over the Gap, Pressler will be leading a company that has been suffering through two years of slumping sales.

Several analysts who follow Disney said Thursday that Pressler's decision to leave is a blow to Disney, where he had steadily risen through the ranks over a span of 15 years to increasingly important jobs within the company.

``He's a terrific executive,'' said Christopher Dixon, an analyst with Liberty Media Corp. in New York. ``It's got to be a disappointment for them. But the infrastructure is fine. The question is, when does the economy improve and what's going to happen in the Middle East?''

Jeffrey Logsdon, a senior research analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison in Boston, said: ``No one was anticipating his departure but there's a lot of extremely skilled people in that division. I don't think it will change the dynamics.''

Pressler, 46, began with Disney in 1987 as an executive in the consumer products division, then was promoted to president of Disney Stores for three years. In 1994, he was named president of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, where he oversaw the expansion of the area to include Disney's California Adventure theme park and the Downtown Disney retail and entertainment complex.

Pressler's responsibilities were eventually expanded to include being responsible for the growth, development and operations of Disney's six U.S. theme parks in California and Florida, four international sites and the development of Disney's 11th theme park in Hong Kong.

Pressler had also been overseeing Disney's professional sports division after the departure of former Disney Sports Inc. President Tony Tavares in January. The company's teams include the playofound Anaheim Angels baseball team and the National Hockey League's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner issued a statement Thursday describing Pressler as ``a tremendous asset'' to the company over his 15 years of service.

``Under his leadership, both the parks and resorts and the Disney Stores were guided through times of enormous creative and financial growth. I am certain that Paul's talents will benefit the Gap tremendously, just as they have added outstanding value to our company.''

Pressler will assume his new job immediately. He succeeds outgoing Gap Chief Executive Millard Drexler, who in May announced his plans to retire.

``I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the many talented people at Gap Inc.,'' Pressler said in a statement. ``Together, we will continue the great legacy of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic brands while creating a new and exciting vision for the future.''

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 27, 2002
Words:498
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