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Gap taps Disney vet

Paul Pressler, chairman of The Walt Disney Co.'s global theme park and resorts division for the past 15 years, has been named president and CEO of Gap Inc., effective immediately. He starts work on Monday, September 30.

Pressler, 46, who succeeds Mickey Drexler at Gap, was also president of Disney Stores for three years, when it expanded from 160 to 335 stores.

Wall Street analysts were positively cautious on the news.

"Pressler is viewed as a highly-capable manager with a healthy appetite for customer research and a keen focus on cost controls," says Maura Hunter Byrne, retailing and specialty store analyst with Salomon Smith Barney in New York. "We remain open minded about his potential and await the unveiling of his strategic plan. He will need to get up the learning curve quickly, and set a well-though-out, thorough strategic plan."

Pressler's 5-year employment contract is a sweet one, with a base salary of $1.5 million, a sign-on bonus of $885,000, annual bonus beginning in 2003 of at least $1.875 million, an option grant of 5 million shares, with a million of those shares at a 50% discount to market, and other annual long-term incentives.

"We view the appointment as a real positive," says Prudential Securities analyst Stacy Pak. "While perhaps not a marquee name, Pressler checks out very well. Most notably, our sources indicate that people who worked for him think very highly of him, and that his appointment will make Gap an easy place to hire for. Given the revolving door at the company, we view that as a real plus."

"We like the fact that the cloud of uncertainty in finding the company's CEO successor has been lifted," says Elizabeth Pierce, retail analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. "Although Mr. Pressler will be brought in just before the extremely important holiday season, there is little that he can do to change anything that will meaningfully impact the company's fourth-quarter performance."

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