When a headhunter called Todd Mansfield in Boston in the mid-1980s and asked if he would be interested in joining a new real estate development group that was being formed at Walt Disney World, the 30-year-old executive had some preconceptions of the Central Florida attraction and a solitary bad memory of Orlando. He imagined long lines of tourists. His only visit here had been in July, and he was overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.
"When I got that call, frankly, I wasn't interested at the time," he says.
This past June, Mansfield, 39, was named executive vice president of Disney Development Co., the organization he almost ignored because thoughts of hordes of tourists and a brutal summer day made it seem like a job for someone else.
With the promotion - his third in nine years - Mansfield moved to the top of DDC, which designs, develops and manages all of Disney's non-theme park projects worldwide. The scope includes every non-park project at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Euro Disney; the company's growing time share operation, Disney Vacation Club; its Disney Institute alternative-vacation complex, scheduled to open next February at Disney World; the design and building of the two Disney cruise ships that will start sailing later this decade; and who knows how many still-secret new profit centers the Disney Co. has up its sleeve.
"There are a couple of major things we're working on at any given time," is all Mansfield will say on that subject.
His job interview, in January 1986, …