Ex-Disneyland President Paul Pressler has left his current job as CEO of The Gap. Ken Pellman wrote me speculating:
I wonder if Byron Pollitt, Cynthia Harriss, and all of the others who followed him from The Disney Store to Disneyland to The Gap are also quitting today? I wonder which company will be the next to offer Paul and his team millions of dollars despite the track record? Many old-school Gap execs left in the previous weeks. Wonder if they’ll come back now?
I too wonder. Despite what this story in The Street would have you think, Pressler was a key figure in bringing the Disney Stores from a small fleet of a few hundred to over 700 stores. In retrospect it looks like that may have been a case of being in front of the right parade. If you stay between the lines you’re bound to get to the finish line.
When Pressler moved from President of The Disney Stores division to Disneyland, the stores were already well into a steep decline, it just wasn’t recognized as such since the profits were still being generated. But customer goodwill was being eaten up and product mix was suffering. Turns out Pressler (and his crew) did the same thing to Disneyland. Profits were up, but what made Disneyland magical was systematically stretched to its limit or eliminated. Although its value as a day resort has risen due to lack of competition in the SoCal market, the product that was Disneyland through the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, was strip mined. All that’s left now is the shell.
Paul and Cynthia were very nice people (I never met Byron, so I wouldn’t know). Cynthia even took time out of her busy day to stop and say hello when I was getting married at The Grand Californian. They were just out of their leagues as Presidents of Disneyland (but the cards were stacked against them with Eisner’s 20% profit in every cash register rule).
Neither had the vision to make Disneyland a true multi-day destination. Pressler’s California Adventure is a failure that the company will have to spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fix. Pressler’s Light Magic
spectacular travesty saddled Disneyland with 60 million dollars of internal dept at the time when the park needed the extra cash to boost its value in the eyes of international travelers (who went to Las Vegas or other destinations instead of California Adventure). Cynthia was never able to get out of Pressler’s shadow (and Eisner’s fiscal limits) despite all her attempts, policy changes, and schmoozing.
This is not a dollars and cents critique. Given a chance to make another company great, either Paul or Cynthia might make a great CEO. So I hope they both land on their feet somewhere.
More on the story at MonstersAndCritics.com.