Universal Orlando president and chief operating officer Bill Davis will retire on Jan. 1, 2022, ending a 15-year tenure leading the resort.
Davis, who first assumed the role in December 2006, had worked as executive at Six Flags Marine World, Spain’s Port Aventura (which was a Universal-branded property from 1998 to 2004) and SeaWorld. His Universal tenure saw a massive expansion of the resort, including the openings of two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands that made Universal Orlando theme more competitive with Disney World.
His departure was announced in an email to team members and was first reported by WDW News Today.
“Bill is a legend in our industry and here at Universal,” Tom Williams, the chairman and CEO of Universal Parks & Resorts who is also retiring on Jan. 1, 2022, said in a statement. “His passion for our business, for our team members and for excellence have inspired all of us. Orlando team members know Bill has been a constant presence in our parks – and I will always remember my frequent walks through the parks with Bill as we reviewed our business and, more importantly, built our friendship.”
Davis will be replaced by Karen Irwin, the current president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios Hollywood. Irwin, a University of Florida graduate, has held a variety of roles since first starting at Universal in 1990 as an opening day food and beverage manager at Universal Studios Florida.
She was eventually promoted to head global merchandise and partner development within Universal Parks & Resorts before taking the top job at the Hollywood theme park in 2016.
Along with Irwin’s promotion, Universal is changing how its leadership roles outside Orlando. Tom Mehrmann, who most recently served as president of the new Universal Beijing Resort, is being moved into a new role as president of the Pacific Rim segment of Universal Parks & Resorts, which encompasses Universal parks in Hollywood, Beijing, and Osaka, Japan.
Both Irwin and Mehrmann will report to Mark Woodbury, the former Universal Creative chairman who is taking over Williams’s role as chair and CEO of Universal Parks & Resort.