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Disney’s Internet Chief Resigns in Late-Night Email

Disney's top Internet executive, Steve Wadsworth, resigned late Thursday following a difficult tenure in which the media giant’s Web strategy underwent repeated retrenchments.

Disney
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Disney

Mr. Wadsworth, whose title was president of the Disney Interactive Media Group, announced his resignation in a late-night email to his staff. “I have been thinking about this for quite some time, and while it is difficult to leave a great company, an exciting business and a wonderful group of people, my desire and excitement to pursue other opportunities is too great to ignore,” the note said.

Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said in a statement: “During his long tenure, Steve has transformed our Disney digital business in a rapidly changing landscape. He leaves with only our best wishes for continued success in whatever challenge he takes on next.”

A successor for Mr. Wadsworth’s will be announced shortly, Mr. Iger’s statement said. A leading candidate, according to people with knowledge of the matter who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, is John Pleasants, the chief executive of Playdom, a booming social gaming business that Disney bought in July.

The group that Mr. Wadsworth oversaw—which includes the Disney.com portal and video games—saw revenues of $197 million in the most recent quarter but reported a loss of $65 million.

Mr. Wadsworth has long been viewed by analysts and investors as a weak link among Disney’s senior managers. Disney’s entry into the online worldshas been mixed, with the acquisition of a successful ClubPenguin.com offsetting disappointing efforts to build gaming worlds around the Pirates of the Caribbean and Tinker Bell franchises.

And Mr. Iger has been forced to spend an outsize amount of time managing the division, keeping an unusually close eye on the Disney.com portal and taking an aggressive role in the division’s gaming strategy. Several months ago, Mr. Iger took away an important piece of Mr. Wadsworth’s empire, a unit based in Seattle that facilitates how various Disney businesses – movies, television, consumer products—operate on the Web.

Attention will be focused on Disney’s interactive unit in the months ahead as it tries to introduce its first major video game blockbuster, “Epic Mickey.” Although early buzz is positive on the game, which features Mickey Mouse in a subterranean world, the title is not set for release until after the Thanksgiving weekend shopping period, which could dent sales.

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