BURBANK, Calif. and LONDON, March 3, 2009 – In order to accelerate Disney’s growth and create an efficient and streamlined organizational structure, Diego Lerner has been named president, The Walt Disney Company, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) it was announced today by Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International. With this appointment, all Disney lines of business in EMEA, excluding Disneyland Resort Paris and ESPN, will be integrated under a single operational structure, as has been done successfully in China, India, Russia, Japan and Latin America. All lines of business in EMEA will report to Mr. Lerner, who will develop and implement strategy, expand existing businesses and seek out new opportunities. Under Mr. Lerner’s vision and leadership, Latin America was the first territory to conceive of and successfully apply the integration of all Disney’s divisions. Mr. Lerner will remain president of and continue to provide strategic oversight and support to Disney’s businesses in Latin America.
“Expansion in international markets is a key strategic priority for Disney, and Diego’s proven ability to nurture and grow Disney’s businesses makes him an ideal choice for this new position as we accelerate our efforts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” said Mr. Bird. “We are delighted that he will apply his expertise to this important part of the world for Disney.”
“I am confident that given his past successes, Diego will provide a well-coordinated approach to our business development in Europe that will allow us to capitalize on many opportunities,” said Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger. “This restructuring will produce cohesive strategies that create new and innovative businesses and drive incremental growth.”
“Disney’s solid foundation in Europe, combined with our company’s continuous ability to deliver the best content, allows me to be very optimistic about our future in this region,” said Mr. Lerner. “I accept these new responsibilities with my fullest commitment and a profound sense of honor and gratitude towards Disney’s management. I look forward to working with our talented executives in the field to continue our tradition of success in these strategic markets.”
Mr. Lerner will be based in London and report to Mr. Bird. He assumes his new post immediately. Claudio Chiaromonte will assume all day-to-day responsibilities for Latin America as chief operating officer and CFO. All Disney businesses in Latin America will report directly to Mr. Chiaromonte, who will report to Andy Bird.
As President, The Walt Disney Company, Latin America, Mr. Lerner managed all of Disney’s activities in the region, supervising offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, and Miami, Fla. During his tenure, Mr. Lerner expanded existing operations and created new businesses, including establishing Disney’s Pay TV businesses in the region. As part of this effort, Mr. Lerner oversaw the launch of Disney Channel (2000), Jetix (2004), and Playhouse Disney (2008), all in both Spanish and Portuguese. He was also responsible for the launch of the first Radio Disney in Spanish (2001), which is currently on the air in nine countries in Latin America.
In addition, he initiated local content development, starting with Patagonik Film Group (1997), the leading film production company in South America, and Miravista (2002), Disney’s film production arm in Brazil and Mexico, which together produced more than 50 films, including the first Disney branded film produced locally — “High School Musical: El Desafío” (2008). Mr. Lerner also began local development of original TV programming for Pay and Free TV, such as the reversioning of Desperate Housewives in several Latin American countries and U.S. Hispanic markets.
Previously, Mr. Lerner was president, The Walt Disney Studios, Latin America, responsible for the distribution of all films released by Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Miramax, as well as the sale and distribution of all home entertainment formats.
Lerner joined Disney in 1990 as executive director of its Video and Pay TV Divisions for the region, setting up new self-distribution operations in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Argentina.
Under his supervision, Disney has achieved a leadership position in film, TV, radio, home entertainment, merchandising, and recently digital entertainment, more than tripling Disney’s media business in Latin America in the last 10 years.
Prior to Disney, Lerner was an attorney specializing in intellectual property rights in Latin America.