Virgin Galactic Hires Disney’s Former International Theme Park Boss As CEO

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The new CEO is Michael Colglazier, the now-former president and managing director of Disney Parks International.

According to Business Insider, Virgin Galactic, the “suborbital rocket company founded by Richard Branson in 2004, has brought on a former Disney boss as CEO to operate a real-life ‘Space Mountain’ ride.”

Effective Monday, Michael Colglazier will step into his new job as CEO of Virgin Galactic. Colglazier “is also joining the publicly traded company’s board of directors,” Business Insider reported. He will “oversee Virgin Galactic’s forthcoming space tourism business and operations,” and “earn a $1 million annual salary to start, plus a performance bonus of up to 150% of his salary, generous stock options, and other benefits, according to a new 8-K filing with the SEC.”

Business Insider wrote that after 16 years of “spaceship research and development, Virgin Galactic is shifting its focus to operations — and making good on its promise to fly people to the edge of space for $200,000 or more per ticket. Colglazier's experience is expected to make those rides the class of luxury experience customers will expect.”

George T. Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s former CEO since 2010, is stepping down from his executive role and the board of directors. Whitesides, however, who arrived at Virgin Galactic after serving as NASA’s chief of staff, will stay with the company as its first “Chief Space Officer.” In this “newly created executive role, Whitesides will focus on ‘developing the Company’s future business opportunities, including point-to-point hypersonic travel and orbital space travel,’ the company said.”

“In a recent interview, Whitesides said Virgin Galactic hopes to claim a fraction of the airline industry's premium long-haul travel business, which totals about $300 billion a year,” reported Business Insider.

"If we can just capture 5% or something like that, then it's still a huge number. I mean, $10 to $15 billion of revenue is a massive opportunity," Whitesides told Business Insider in May. "The things that we're working on are very much part of our aviation future."

In the company’s recent press release, founder Richard Branson praised Colglazier’s “long and distinguished career at one of the world’s leading customer experience brands.” And Chamath Palihapitiya, chairman of Virgin Galactic, said Colglazier’s “skills and experience in building multi-billion-dollar consumer-facing businesses is exactly what the company needs to move forward as customers and their families begin traveling to Spaceport America in the deserts of New Mexico for once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Business Insider wrote.

In his statement, Palihapitiya also “hinted that Virgin Galactic could see its first passenger flight — that of Branson himself — before the end of 2020.”

Read the full report here.

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