The Walt Disney Co. has promoted Michael Johnson to the post of president of Walt Disney International while the overseas outfit's European chief Etienne de Villiers has resigned.

Johnson has headed up Walt Disney International, Asia since June 1999. One of his first tasks in his new role will be to find replacements for himself and de Villiers who leaves his post at the end of the month to pursue new media opportunities. De Villiers oversaw the expansion of Disney's international TV operations including eight Disney channels, the acquisition of a 25% stake in UK morning TV service GMTV and a partnership with Germany channel Super RTL.

Johnson's promotion follows the appointment of Robert Iger to the number two position at the Walt Disney Co. behind chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner (Screendaily, January 25). Iger, who became president and chief operating officer, had day-to-day oversight of Disney's international operations prior to Johnson's appointment.

Johnson joined Disney in 1986. He was appointed president of Buena Vista Home Video International in 1992 and was named president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) in 1997 when the North American and international home video organisations were merged.

Johnson established BVHE as the worldwide distributor for leading Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and also negotiated video and theatrical distribution agreements and certain production agreements with Tokuma Shoten Publishing, Studio Ghibli and Daiei Studios. He also negotiated to acquire worldwide rights to Princess Mononoke, Japan's top animated film of all time.

In his new role, Johnson will be responsible for regional marketing, brand management and consumer research and will also help identify acquisition opportunities, strategic alliances and other initiatives outside the US. Individual managers for specific geographic regions or countries will report to Johnson.