John Pepper, a recently appointed member of the Walt Disney Company board, will succeed former US senator George Mitchell as Mouse House chairman in January 2007.

The announcement came as a convocation of Disney directors emerged from self-imposed retreat in Orlando, Florida. Despite the inexplicable absence of white smoke, a spokesman announced the elevation of Pepper (67), a former chairman and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble.

The question of succession has been hanging over Disney for some time, Mitchell having been due for retirement at the company's last annual meeting in March. However, he agreed to remain in office until the [then] new ceo Robert Iger found his feet.

While Pepper has little media or technology experience, he is described by former colleagues as an affable consensus builder. As P&G chairman, he pursued a bold acquisition strategy and helped lead the company's push into developing markets.

His corporate experience and skills contrast to those of Mitchell, relatively inexperienced in business but a skilled diplomatic schmoozer whose greatest achievement is arguably the brokering of a peace deal between the warring parties in Northern Ireland.

Mitchell's departure six months hence will reduce the Disney board to thirteen members. The more superstitious of whom may feel it a matter of urgency to find a willing derrière.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff