ORLANDO-On a steady timeshare expansion kick, Walt Disney World has surprised some industry watchers by selecting an in-house executive with no previous vacation resort business background, to head its seven-resort timeshare division.

Jim Lewis, a senior vice president of government relations and public affairs and a seven-year Disney professional, takes over from George Aguel who started the company’s vacation resort business in 1991. Aguel continues to head Disney’s group and convention business.

Jerry Montgomery, with Disney for the past 24 years in various executive roles, becomes senior vice president in charge of public affairs, government relations, transportation strategy, minority business development, diversity and community relations.

He reports to Al Weiss, Walt Disney World Resort president. Lewis, who started his career at Disney in the finance division, reports to Randy Garfield, Disney’s executive vice president of sales and travel.

Disney has grown its vacation resort business to 70,000 owners at seven resorts. The seventh timeshare property, the 552-unit Saratoga Springs, is being completed on 16 acres near Downtown Disney and will give the company 2,100 timeshare units.

Disney’s other vacation resorts are the Old Key West, Boardwalk Villas, Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Beach Club Villas, all at its 30,000-acre Lake Buena Vista, FL enclave. At other locations, the company operates Disney’s Vero Beach, FL Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina.

Disney’s timeshare division is catching up to industry leader Central Florida Investments Inc., headed by developer David A. Siegel. CFI, with 10 resorts, 20,000 units and 200,000 timeshare owners, is believed to be the largest privately held timeshare development company in the US, hospitality industry consultants tell GlobeSt.com.

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