Catherine Powell leaves the presidency of Disneyland Paris, to a new president

The news came this week. After almost two years with the Euro Disney Group, Catherine Powell, current CEO of Disneyland Paris, is leaving the presidency. The English leader was very appreciated by the fans of the destination who very quickly flooded the social networks with messages of thanks to the one who allowed the impulse of this new dynamic in the Resort. For the time being, Disneyland Paris has not appointed any successor to his position, indicating that it will be announced later. Catherine Powell will continue in office until her replacement is announced.


Catherine Powell, first woman president of Euro Disney, at the origin of a new dynamic

Two years ago, at the same time, Tom Wolber announced his departure from the direction of Disneyland Paris, and the destination was replaced by Catherine Powell in the summer of 2016. Daily Disneyland painted a portrait of this new arrival at the head of the destination.

Catherine Powell is a woman who has always succeeded. At Disney, she has held numerous positions, including with Disney Media Distribution. Just before her appointment at Disneyland Paris, she was Managing Director of The Walt Disney Company Australia & New Zeland.

At Disneyland Paris, Catherine Powell continued the efforts of her predecessor, Tom Wolber, by continuing the visitor experience enrichment plan that led to numerous renovations prior to the 25th Anniversary. But Catherine Powell is also at the origin of this new dynamic which has been blowing on Disneyland Paris since the beginning of 2017. Together with the Resort’s teams, she was able to set up a unique anniversary, which re-interested the visitors in the destination and thus allowed this long-awaited revival of visitors. Catherine Powell’s presidency was also the occasion to discover a person close to the fans, in the parks, present during the ceremonies, a funny and dynamic woman who regaled us with her impeccable French… to give us “the chair de poulet”.

The president of Euro Disney also managed last year’s takeover bid with a master hand, thus facilitating the migration of capital to the parent company, to ensure a better financial health to the park. Under his direction, Disneyland Paris innovated, proposing each year new seasons, new shows and animations, faults of new attractions. This meant that Disneyland Paris had not received a budget for second-rate novelties, such as the equipment for the Walt Disney Studios park to create night shows,…

Disneyland Paris CEO Catherine Powell
Disneyland Paris CEO Catherine Powell

Catherine Powell is the first woman to manage the Resort and the first of all to make gender equality a corporate goal. As soon as she arrived, she tried to achieve greater equality in the management of the group. Today, more than 30% of management staff are women. She does not hesitate, as at the beginning of this month to organize a women’s day: Disneyland Paris Women’s Day punctuated with conferences, debates around the women’s issue and parity.

If Catherine Powell’s departure is a little hasty, she doesn’t leave either the band or the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts section because the president of Disneyland Paris got a promotion, hence her departure. A few days ago, The Walt Disney Company announced a slight restructuring of its organization, shaking up some positions in order to improve the company’s management.

The Parks and Resorts division includes American parks, Disneyland Paris, Resorts and Asian parks. The Disney Asian Parks governance model operates under a single banner. In reality, a president is appointed to supervise the presidents of the 3 Asian parks. This method having proved its worth in Asia, Disney decided to apply it to the American and French parks by setting up, there again a new collegial direction. Catherine Powell will supervise the management of this new region, named Disney Parks & Resorts Western Region. She will take over Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Paris.


Who to replace Catherine Powell?

Even though the destination is recording record figures, the results are good and the park is growing again, why change president? The decisions taken by Catherine Powell are good, her choices have borne their fruits driving this famous new dynamic in the Resort. But then, who to replace Catherine Powell?

Several names are circulating behind the scenes as to Mrs. Powell’s successor, some of whom would make the former shareholders jump…

  • The first possibility is the promotion of Daniel Delcourt to the position of CEO. Currently COO of the destination he manages since 2014 the operations of the Resort. The Belgian, who passed by Disneyland Resort, in California, where he was in charge of the direction of Downtown Disney and the Hotels, directs with a master hand the activities of Disneyland Paris. It is driving changes within the destination, particularly within the catering sector, by increasing its quality and diversifying its offer. It would be logical for Daniel Delcourt to take this position, at least that is the logical continuation of things. He makes a very good candidate. Nevertheless, Disney might decide to keep him in his position as he is particularly competent. 
  • The second possibility is the return of Philippe Gas. Former CEO of Disneyland Paris, he left the French Resort in 2014 after 6 years at the head of the Resort. He is at the origin of Disney Dreams and the Ratatouille attraction. He is sometimes very badly perceived by some fans who consider him responsible for the situation pre-25 years. He knows Disneyland Paris very well since he worked very long in the company, in many positions. The Frenchman was entrusted with the direction of the brand new Shanghai Disney Resort by Bob Iger, whose opening and completion he orchestrated. He could pass the hand to someone else after the opening of Toy Story Land at the end of the month to find the Parisian Resort, it seems. 
  • Disney could consider promoting a member of the management, internally, or an executive of the Walt Disney Company, like Catherine Powell or even recruit someone from outside, even if the hypothesis seems unlikely.
Daniel Delcourt Disneyland Paris COO Philippe Gas Shanghai Disney Resort CEO
On the left, Daniel Delcourt, current COO of Disneyland Paris and on the right, Philippe Gas, CEO of Shanghai Disney Resort

We will know in the coming weeks who will embody the renewal of Disneyland Paris. Who will be in charge of the transformation of the Resort? Who to replace Catherine Powell? With the hasty departure of its president, Disneyland Paris continues to preserve this image as a springboard within the Walt Disney Company. The position of group president seems to be a kind of “test” for the firm’s future executives, as an obligatory passage before a promotion. Now, Disney will have to choose a president who will take full care of its resort and who will be able to supervise, with as much brio as Catherine Powell, the integration of the investment of more than 2 billion euros made by Disney last February for the next few years.

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