Pitaro bolts from Yahoo! Joins Pleasants as co-president at Disney Interactive

If there was any question about the value of Disney’s almost billion dollar buy back in July, yesterday’s announcement by Disney President and CEO Robert Iger put the final stamp on it. John Pleasants, former CEO of Playdom has been appointed to a co-president position at Disney’s Interactive Media Group. Joining him is (now former) Yahoo! media head James Pitaro.

Pleasants, whom we’ve discussed a number of times in relation to Playdom, has previously held top positions not only with Playdom but a number of other successful internet properties including EA and Ticketmaster.com. From his co-presidential chair, Pleasants is tasked with overseeing Disney’s game strategy, including console, mobile, virtual worlds, and online games.

“I am extremely excited to be working with the DIMG team, and our colleagues across Disney, to advance the mission of enlivening people everywhere through the world’s best interactive entertainment,” Pleasants said. “Bob’s vision and commitment to excellence in new media positions our organization to achieve great things.”

On the other side of the coin, Disney now counts James Pitaro as a staff member. Pitaro recently joined the brain dump at Yahoo! and handed in his resignation late last month. Most recently Pitaro was heading up the development of Yahoo! Sports. He joined the team in 2001 as part of Yahoo!’s acquisition of LAUNCH Media, where he filled the role of Vice President and Head of Business Affairs for Yahoo! Music. Pitaro’s new responsibilities at Disney will include overseeing the brand’s web and social media sites and activities, included the flagship Disney.com.

“I’m honored to be joining the Disney family and energized to start working with the DIMG team. I’ve admired Disney for as long as I can remember and am looking forward to bringing my experience to the company and partnering with John to advance our online businesses,” Pitaro said.

Having a heckuva run thus far this year, Disney is in dire need of a shakeup. Posting a $130 million loss over the past 9 months, as well as the departure of former President Steve Wadsworth, these new co-presidents must hit the ground running if the magic mouse is going to keep up, and move forward with their digital offerings. Prior to this move, Disney had largely grouped all digital activities; web based and console gaming, under one roof – the Walt Disney interactive Media Group. Now, by splitting responsibilities, Disney is adopting a divide and conquer approach, with gaming receiving it’s own unit, Web, likewise.

“Our rapidly growing Disney digital businesses will benefit greatly from the deep experience and distinct leadership skills shown by John and Jimmy,” company President Robert Iger said. “John has shown incredible agility and skill in helping companies achieve success in the ever-shifting digital games business, while Jimmy has vast knowledge of the online world and has been hugely successful at creating and building audiences around branded online content.”

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