ORLANDO, Fla .– Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort, is retiring Jan. 1 after 15 years of service and will be replaced by Karen Irwin, president of Universal Studios Hollywood, the company said on Wednesday.
The move comes as Universal is undergoing substantial leadership changes within its creative parks and divisions. Universal Parks & Resorts President and CEO Tom Williams will retire in March after more than 50 years with the company, and Vice President Mark Woodbury will take over effective January 1.
Michael Hightower, currently Senior Vice President, Parks Division Executive Project Director, will replace Woodbury as President of Universal Creative on the same day.
Davis was appointed President of Universal Orlando in 2006 after serving as Managing Director of SeaWorld Orlando. He has worked in the theme park industry for more than four decades, with managerial positions at Six Flags Marine World – now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – in California and a theme park in Spain formerly owned by Universal.
He began running Universal Orlando during a period of downturning and oversaw the resort’s expansion with the opening of the Volcano Bay Water Park and Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
In February 2007, Davis, then 60, told the Orlando Sentinel that he was excited about the future of the resort and that he was dedicated to bringing “the world’s most technologically advanced attractions” to Orlando. .
Williams called Davis a “legend” within the theme park industry and Universal.
“His passion for our company, for our team members and for excellence has inspired us all,” he said in a statement. “The members of the Orlando team know that Bill has been a constant presence in our parks – and I will always remember my frequent walks in the parks with Bill as we reviewed our activities and, more importantly, built our friendship.”
Irwin’s career at Universal began in Orlando and spanned over 30 years. She oversaw the food, beverage and merchandise operations within the Parks division of Universal and helped lead the development of partnerships within the company, becoming President of Universal Studios Hollywood in November 2016. .
Most recently, she guided the development and opening of The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash attraction at Universal Hollywood, which last month received an Excellence Award from the Themed Entertainment Association.
With Irwin’s move, Tom Mehrmann, president of the newly opened Universal Beijing Resort in China, will take on a newly created position as head of the Pacific Rim of Universal Parks & Resorts, according to the company.
In this role, he will oversee the operation of Universal Studios Hollywood and its resorts in Japan and Beijing.
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