CalArts President and Los Angeles Festival Director Robert J. Fitzpatrick was named on Thursday as president of Euro Disneyland, a new $1.5-billion resort and entertainment project to be built outside Paris.
Fitzpatrick, 46, director of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles, said he will stay with the arts institute in Valencia through the summer and with the 1987 festival until after its 3 1/2-week run in September. Since 1975, he has been president of CalArts, which was founded by the Disney family as a training ground for the visual and performing arts in the '60s. Prior to coming to Southern California, Fitzpatrick was dean of students at Johns Hopkins University and a Baltimore councilman.
Euro Disneyland will be run by the Walt Disney Co., with contracts expected to be signed with the French government before the end of the month, Fitzpatrick said.
"We are moving toward completion (of the agreement)," Fitzpatrick said in a telephone interview, shortly after making the announcement to his festival staff at the Hotel Embassy downtown, "and in anticipation of the agreement being signed, and contingent on it, I have been asked to become president of Euro Disneyland."
He said he got final word on the appointment early Thursday, apparently from Paris. Asked to comment specifically on the project, Fitzpatrick noted: "Having been on the job approximately six hours, I think it would be a mistake to comment in detail."
While Fitzpatrick was talking about his new appointment, the official announcement was being made at Walt Disney Co. headquarters in Burbank by Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer and Frank G. Wells, president and chief operating officer.
"Bob Fitzpatrick brings to his new position a wide background in the arts and entertainment as well as a thorough knowledge of France and the French culture," Eisner said. "In the years I have known him through Disney's association with CalArts, I have found Bob to be a tireless worker for civic, educational and cultural causes and a person of outstanding managerial ability."
Fitzpatrick acknowledged that he will be getting a portion of his salary from Euro Disneyland as soon as the contracts are signed, along with his L.A. Festival and CalArts salaries. He declined to specify amounts.
"After spending three years trying to bring the Los Angeles Festival into existence," Fitzpatrick said, "I simply would not accept this if it would in any way jeopardize production of the festival."
Maureen Kindel, president of the city Board of Public Works and chairman of the festival, said that Mayor Tom Bradley was told of Fitzpatrick's new appointment early Thursday.
Fitzpatrick, praising the festival's two associate directors, Tom Schumacher and Leigh Drolet, said he would play a major role in helping decide who would run Los Angeles Festival in 1989. Kindel said it could be either someone now on the staff or from elsewhere.
"I have loved Los Angeles, it's a fabulous, exciting, wonderful city," Fitzpatrick said. "I have watched it grow at an exhilarating rate. I will continue to keep ties here, very strong ones, and I'll continue to work with CalArts and the festival, whether as a board member, an unpaid volunteer or an active supporter."
"He certainly has a contribution to make, and he's certainly not going to burn his bridges in Los Angeles," Kindel said.
"The mayor and a lot of key participants have all been informed," Fitzpatrick noted, "and they are very supportive . . . The mayor is delighted."
Fitzpatrick said he has known Eisner for the last 10 years, when he invited Eisner, then president of Paramount Pictures, onto the CalArts board. Fitzpatrick said that he has been consulting with Eisner and Wells on the Euro Disneyland project for a year or two. Then, "out of the clear blue," he said, both men asked him if he would be interested in the appointment.
Euro Disneyland will be built on 5,000 acres 20 miles east of Paris near Charles de Gaulle Airport. Fitzpatrick estimated that the complex, which will include hotels, apartments, an amusement park and golf courses as well as facilities for cultural activities, will be completed in the early 1990s.
"This is a billion-and-a-half dollar project. It means thousands of jobs for French and European workers," Fitzpatrick said. "It is the chance to be in at the very beginning on the creation of a major international project.
"It is going to be directly connected by Metro (rail). Eighteen to 20 million people will be within a two-hour drive. It will be more than just an amusement park, although that will be one key element. We will create an amusement park such as exists at Disneyland (in Anaheim, Calif.), Walt Disney World (Orlando, Fla.) and in Tokyo but that is a very small portion of the total project. It will be a destination resort, a place where people will come and stay."
Fitzpatrick said the name Euro Disneyland was "very deliberately chosen, because it is expected to be a major magnet for all of the European countries."
Meanwhile Fitzpatrick left no doubt that he will stick with his decision to move on. Referring to Los Angeles Philharmonic Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann's decision a year and a half ago to turn down a job with the Paris Opera, after he said he would take it, Fitzpatrick noted with humor--"and affection . . . Unlike Ernest Fleischmann, when I take a job in Paris, I keep it."