ORLANDO-Felix Mussenden, president/CEO of Universal Orlando for the past two years and an integral cog in the 29-year-old theme park’s daily rivalry with Walt Disney World, either resigned abruptly or was fired late Tuesday.

Nobody is talking. The Associated Press is reporting today Mussenden was fired. The Orlando Sentinel calls the executive’s departure a resignation. Mussenden has an unlisted phone.

Don Potts, senior vice president/operations, was laid off, the company confirms. Other first-tier executives at Universal and Disney have also been laid off in recent weeks but the companies decline comment on most upper-echelon departures.

Bob Gault, executive vice president, international operations planning, Universal Studios Recreation Group, is filling in as company president until a new chief is hired.

Mussenden entered Universal’s presidential suite in 1999 after Tom Williams was named chairman/CEO of the Recreation Group. Mussenden then was executive vice president, Universal Orlando.

He has been with the park for 29 years and earns an estimated salary of $200,000, restaurant industry consultants intimate with industry compensation packages tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

In the last 30 days, Universal has laid off 100 hourly and salaried employees, trimmed work hours of most of its 12,000 workers and closed several restaurants including its largest, Thunder Falls Terrace in the Jurassic Park area at the Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando has two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

Disney has made similar cutbacks to cope with the downturn in attendance since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC.

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