|By Jason Garcia, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
In the letter,
Staggs also writes that Lewis has "agreed to make himself available to us as a consultant."
"Disney appreciates Jim's many contributions and we wish him nothing but the best in whatever he chooses to do next," Staggs writes in the letter, a copy of which was shown to the Sentinel.
The move is an about-face from this summer when Disney dumped Lewis and two finance executives because of mistakes made while planning Aulani, an estimated
Disney would not comment Monday on the letter or its consulting arrangement with Lewis. But the company said it would not be unusual for it to bring back a departed executive on a consulting basis.
Lewis did not return phone messages.
Experts say the arrangement could be part of a settlement between Disney and Lewis to avoid a lawsuit stemming from his dismissal.
A letter of recommendation "usually is a term that is perhaps spelled out as part of a settlement agreement," Ball said. "It could have been a business decision on the part of the company to say, 'I think I'm right,' or 'I know I'm right, but do I want to get involved in the protracted litigation -- and the public exposure of that -- to prove I'm right?'"
It's unclear whether Disney has done anything similar for the other two executives who lost their jobs alongside Lewis. They are
Heaney declined to comment. Smith did not return phone messages.
Disney's letter for Lewis is addressed "To whom it may concern." It appears designed to restore Lewis' reputation and to aid in a job search.
In it, Staggs suggests that Lewis left the company by choice and that his departure was related to the retirement of another senior executive.
Staggs writes, "On
There is no mention of Aulani or the mistakes that forced Disney to suddenly stop selling time-share interests in the resort after a full year of sales because of the risk of future budget shortfalls. Sales were kept on hold for two months -- including during Aulani's grand opening events -- while Disney recalculated fees and revised legal-disclosure materials submitted to
Disney ultimately increased Aulani's annual dues by 33 percent, adding hundreds of dollars per year to the cost of buying into the resort, depending on the size of the stake purchased. Disney must also subsidize the dues paid by consumers who bought into Aulani during the first year of sales.
At buildout, the resort will have 481
Aulani is a strategically important project for Disney. Company executives have said they may build more such standalone resorts in the future, as a way to capture vacation spending from travelers in the years between their visit to the company's traditional theme-park resorts.
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