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Shakeup at Disney's Net unit

The Walt Disney Company replaces Buena Vista Internet Group chairman Jake Winebaum with another executive, Steve Wadsworth.

The Walt Disney Company today shook up the management of its Buena Vista Internet Group, replacing chairman Jake Winebaum with another executive, Steve Wadsworth.

It comes on the same See news analysis: Will Disney's Go Network pay off? day that Disney disclosed it is seeking to buy the remaining stake in Infoseek that it doesn't already own. Since jumping onto the Internet--with the launch of its Go Network and online subscription service for children--the media and entertainment giant has produced mixed results, analysts have said.

Disney also said it would take a "significant stake" in an Internet start-up led by Winebaum. He will run eCompanies, a new Internet investment firm, with EarthLink founder Sky Dayton.

"Now is a great time to be doing this," Winebaum told CNET today. "I've been at Disney for seven years...I felt that it would be a good time to turn over the reign to pursue my dream to be an owner." He added that his departure takes effect immediately.

Under Winebaum, a number of high-ranking executives also have left Disney's Internet operations unexpectedly. This included executives of Starwave and Infoseek, companies that Disney took control of to build its Net operations.

Winebaum will be succeeded by an experienced management team, led by Steve Wadsworth, who becomes president of the Buena Vista Internet Group, Disney said in a statement. Like other media giants, Disney also reportedly is considering spinning off its Internet operations.

Under the reorganization, three other Buena Vista executives--Chuck Davis, Kevin Mayer, and Larry Shapiro--will assume broader responsibilities. Davis becomes president of electronic commerce, Mayer becomes executive vice president of the television network product, and Shapiro becomes executive vice president of business development.

In a statement, Disney chief executive Michael Eisner said: "While I'm sorry to see Jake leave, it gives us the best of two worlds--Jake building and growing a new enterprise in which we have a significant stake, while his successors who worked with him to build our Internet business keep the business growing."