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Virgin Galactic Picks Disney Executive for Its Next CEO

By Rich Smith – Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 11:24AM

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George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic's previous CEO, will develop new markets for the space tourism company.

Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE -4.10%), the company that dreams of making space tourism an everyday entertainment for well-heeled vacationers, is bringing in an entertainment expert to help make that dream a reality.  

Late on Wednesday, the company announced that the CEO who led Virgin Galactic from start-up to IPO, George Whitesides, will step down from his post on Monday and become the company's chief space officer. Taking over the CEO's desk on July 20 will be Michael Colglazier, who until recently was Walt Disney's (DIS -2.21%) president of Disney Parks International, and before that, of Disneyland itself.  

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo mothership in flight.

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo will carry its SpaceShipTwo up to 50,000 feet on the way to space. Image source: Virgin Galactic.

Colglazier brings some three decades of experience attracting domestic and international visitors to Disney's entertainment parks, and has been responsible for everything from park operations and strategy to "commercial and experiential development," Virgin Galactic says.

In a statement, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said, "Michael's long and distinguished career at one of the world's leading customer experience brands provides a natural fit with Virgin's culture as well as Galactic's requirements as it prepares for commercial service." This seems especially pertinent considering that Virgin Galactic intends to offer space tourists not simply a ride to space, but a perhaps weekslong space camp experience in New Mexico, including all the astronaut training required to take a ride into space.

Whitesides will assume more of a big-think role focused on "developing the Company's future business opportunities, including point-to-point hypersonic travel and orbital space travel," the company said. Whitesides was formerly chief of staff for NASA.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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