In a bit of surprising news, Universal Studios Hollywood has announced that the park’s tenured President and COO Larry Kurzwiel will be stepping down. Mr. Kurzwiel will be taking the step down from Park President to pursue a career at a private equity firm specializing in the food industry as an operating partner. Taking his place is Karen Irwin, who has been instrumental in the growth of Orlando. She currently serves as Executive Vice President, Global Merchandise and Partnership Development for the Universal Parks and Resorts division
Karen will be relocating from her current home in Orlando, FL where she has served the company for over 2o years. She was part of the opening team at Universal Studios Florida in 1990, and has held several leadership positions throughout the years before moving to the Partnership Development position in 2004.
Tom Williams, President and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts made the announcement Wednesday.
“Karen is creative, strategic, focused and a true leader and been at the forefront of our incredible growth in Merchandise over the past 10 years. She has a wealth of operational and senior management experience in all facets of our business and was instrumental in all of the development of our incredible Harry Potter offerings. Karen is uniquely qualified for this important role and we look forward to welcoming her to this new chapter in her career.”
Mr. Williams continued, “Larry has been a vital member of the Universal family and he will be missed. Since 1999, he has presided over the theme park’s many award-wining attractions and signature Studio Tour, including the park’s recent revitalization that transformed over 75 percent of the destination, culminating with the highly-anticipated arrival of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. His passion, strategic insight and creative vision were invaluable to our business and we wish him much success in his new venture.”
The move comes at an important time in Universal Hollywood history, as they are currently poised to start the second phase of their multi-year Evolution project. The project will see the addition of several huge new attractions and opportunities within the park, including the re-development of the lower lot area.
The Orlando park has done amazing things since 2004, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. While that addition, and subsequent expansion was seen as the beginning of the huge turn around in Universal Orlando attendance and growth, the move actually started years prior as Universal pushed through the economic downturn of the early 2000’s. Ms. Irwin was one of the figures instrumental in the many growth opportunities, so it will be very interesting to see what turns Universal Hollywood takes in the next few years.
Stay tuned for more on Universal Studios Hollywood, and for more info on The Walking Dead Attraction check out the link below, and be sure to get social with us on Facebook and follow along with us on Twitter @BehindThrills for the latest updates!