By Malissa Rogers
The Walt Disney Company appointed George A. Kalogridis as president of Walt Disney World on Friday, making him the first openly gay man to hold that position.
Kalogridis, Walt Disney World’s fifth president, has been with the Walt Disney Company since 1971 and served as president of California’s Disneyland Resort since 2009. The 59-year-old Kalogridis’ first job with the company was bussing tables at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on the Orlando property, according to South Florida Gay News. The Orlando Sentinel reported that friends and colleagues describe him as “breathing Disney.”
“I am excited to return to my roots and have the opportunity to lead our talented Walt Disney World Resort cast,” Kalogridis said in a prepared statement distributed by Disney. “I look forward to again working with my Florida-based colleagues and reconnecting with Central Florida’s community and business leaders.”
The Orlando Business Journal reports that Kalogridis will oversee more than 66,000 employees, which is three times the amount of people that he managed in California’s Disneyland Resort. Kalogridis has replaced Meg Crofton, who recently assumed the role as president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations in the United States and France.
However, Kalogridis told the Orlando Sentinel that he would not make huge changes to the resort, but is looking to follow the course that his predecessors set for him.
“Everybody has a unique leadership style, but I think we have a common vision as a segment, and that’s how we operate all of our parks around the world,” Kalogridis said. “This is a volatile business world and things change, and so it’s really more how can we as a team make sure that we adapt.”
In 2011, Kalogridis was featured in an “It Gets Better” video, a project created by Dan Savage to inspire bullied teens that face harassment. Kalogridis’ video addressed “anyone who has ever been bullied, teased, or harassed for being different.”