Head of Disney Interactive to leave
Wadsworth has headed Disney Interactive Media Group for 11 years, overseeing sprawling digital operations that include the company's websites, its games group and a growing number of virtual worlds, including Club Penguin and World of Cars Online. In July, the division added social gaming to its portfolio with the acquisition of Playdom, which creates games that run on Facebook and other networks.
No successor has been named, although speculation is focused on Playdom chief executive John Pleasants.
"It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision and plan to resign," Wadsworth wrote in an e-mail to his staff, adding, "I have been thinking about this for quite some time, and while it is difficult to leave a great company, an exciting business and a wonderful group of people, my desire and excitement to pursue other opportunities is too great to ignore."
Disney's efforts to extend its characters and storytelling online have been a top priority for the company, with July's purchase of Playdom -- a deal with valued at as much as $763.2 million -- and of Tapulous, a developer that specializes in mobile games and applications. This summer it unveiled World of Cars Online, the latest in a growing number of virtual worlds.
But the group, under Wadsworth, has been struggling to achieve profitability, posting an operating loss of $65 million on revenue of $197 million in its most recent quarter.
"We believe fully in the space, obviously, given our investments," Chief Executive Bob Iger said in July on a call with analysts. "And we believe that overall games will be profitable for us and particularly social games will be profitable, and we're not giving you a timeline as to when we'll achieve that."
Iger issued a statement Friday morning, crediting Wadsworth with transforming Disney's digital business.
"I've been fortunate to work with Steve for many years and am thankful for his dedication and countless contributions to our company," Iger said. "He leaves with only our best wishes for continued success in whatever challenge he takes on next."
--Dawn C. Chmielewski
Photo: Steve Wadsworth unveiling the "Disney Mobile," a cellphone service, at the 2006 Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Assn. convention. Credit: Bryan Haraway/Getty Images