|By Jason Garcia, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 19, 2012--One of the Walt Disney Co.'s best-known executives in Orlando -- and across the U.S. meetings-and-conventions industry -- has a new assignment.
George Aguel, a 22-year Disney veteran and a former chairman of Visit Orlando, the area's main convention-and-visitors bureau, will now focus exclusively on lining up corporate sponsors and third-party operators for all of Disney's theme-park holdings worldwide.
Aguel's responsibilities had previously been split between sponsorships and resort sales and services, which include group-and-convention sales.
The reassignment comes as Disney seeks outside operators -- known as "operating participants" in Disney theme-park parlance -- for Shanghai Disneyland, the $4.4 billion resort it is developing in China.
"Given the importance of these partnerships and our ambitious, global growth goals in this area, a more dedicated leadership focus is required," Leslie Ferraro, executive vice president of global marketing and sales for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, wrote Friday in a memo to Disney employees.
Disney first tapped Aguel to oversee "corporate alliances" in 2010. Since then, Disney's theme-park division has signed or renewed a number of large agreements, including deals with Starbucks Coffee Co., General Motors Co., Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Arnold Palmer Golf Management.
But some Disney projects that depend on third-party businesses have languished, including long-stalled plans at Disney World to redevelop Pleasure Island in the Downtown Disney retail district.
The decision to have Aguel focus solely on sponsorships was among a series of executive changes announced Friday within Disney's sales and marketing operations.
Replacing Aguel as head of resort sales and services will be Rick Continelli. In addition to the group-and-convention business, Continelli will also oversee youth, military and weddings, sports programs and events, as well as the Disney Institute, a business-consulting unit.
Disney said Aguel, who is the immediate past chairman of Visit Orlando and remains on that tourism-marketing agency's executive committee, will serve out his term on that board.
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