Frenchman to take over as Euro Disney chairman

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The Independent Online
EURO DISNEY'S chairman, Robert Fitzpatrick, is quitting on 12 April, the anniversary of the opening of the Paris theme park.

His successor will be Philippe Bourguignon, currently president of the troubled company, which is expected to lose up to pounds 100m this year and whose share price has halved since its peak.

A spokesman said Mr Fitzpatrick, who organised the Los Angeles Olympics before going to France to mastermind the park, wanted to leave because his interest was in new projects and Euro Disney was now up and running.

But the move also reflects a deliberate attempt on the part of Walt Disney, which owns 49 per cent of the company, to 'Europeanise' the management of the park.

As part of this drive, Mr Bourguignon, who joined Euro Disney in 1988 from Accor, the French hotels group, was given day-to-day control of the theme park last September, and the board has been restructured.

In the past two years the proportion of Americans on the management board has been cut from 90 to 33 per cent. Of the remainder, 41 per cent are French and 26 per cent come from other European countries.

The higher French participation reflects particular concern about the small number of French visitors to the park. It had been expected that half total admissions would be French, but in practice the figure is less than 30 per cent.

Mr Fitzpatrick, 52, a US citizen, plans to remain in Paris, where he will set up an independent international consulting firm. He will continue to act as a member of the park's management board and as a consultant to Walt Disney.

The shares of the heavily indebted company - gearing is estimated to be more than 250 per cent - rose 28p to 778p as European bourses responded to the prospect of lower interest rates.