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London Resort CEO Pierre-Yves Gerbeau and his life at Disneyland Paris and the Millennium Dome

If ever there was a man with a track record of turning fiascos into success stories, then Pierre-Yves Gerbeau is surely he.

And given the dark clouds of doubt generated by years of inactivity around the much trumpeted £5 billion London Resort entertainment park on the Swanscombe Peninsula, between Dartford and Gravesend, he may face his toughest challenge yet.

While Hollywood studio Paramount may be back on board - joining the likes of the BBC and ITV - its future is far from assured.

Newly appointed chief executive PY Gerbeau thinks the park will see the best of Hollywood and Britain combined
Newly appointed chief executive PY Gerbeau thinks the park will see the best of Hollywood and Britain combined

The charismatic Frenchman, 53, certainly has a highly successful CV and the ability to bring a little sparkle to any boardroom, with an approach which made him a mini-celebrity during his time in charge of the Millennium Dome, now better known as the O2 Arena, with the tabloid press nicknaming him 'The Gerbil'.

The big question is whether London Resort's newly appointed chief executive, PY, as he prefers to be known, can use his undoubted talents to reverse the rapidly dwindling levels of confidence in a project first launched 12 years ago, but yet to see a shovel of soil turned over towards completion.

Starting off as a professional ice hockey player - securing a place in the French national team - he suffered a blow when an injury in 1989 put paid to his hopes of remaining at the top of the game.

The London Resort, based in Sawnscombe Peninsula, will be set over 535 acres
The London Resort, based in Sawnscombe Peninsula, will be set over 535 acres

Moving into business, he started off with French sports marketing and management firm TPS Conseil before joining Disneyland Paris - then known as Euro Disney - in 1991, just ahead of its launch.

He rose through the ranks as the entertainment complex struggled to find its feet - posting multi-million pound losses - eventually emerging as vice-president of park operations and attractions in 1994, a role he fulfilled for three years.

It was PY who gained much of the credit for pulling the site out of the red and heavily into the black.

PY won plaudits for turning around the fortunes of Disneyland Paris - or Euro Disney as it was then known
PY won plaudits for turning around the fortunes of Disneyland Paris - or Euro Disney as it was then known

Having left to gain a degree in business, he was then parachuted into the ailing Millennium Dome Experience at CEO - a year long exhibition built in a purpose-built dome in North Greenwich.

After years of controversy over the cost of the project - designed to create a building to mark the turn of the century - the grand opening on New Year's Eve 1999 proved calamitous with newspaper editors left queuing in the rain resulting in a barrage of negative headlines.

Brought in just a month after it opened to the public, the chirpy PY turned the project from PR disaster into something at least a little palatable, taking a high-profile, enthusiastic approach to the project which won him many admirers.

PY Gerbeau was chief executive of the Millennium Dome and was credited with saving its reputation
PY Gerbeau was chief executive of the Millennium Dome and was credited with saving its reputation

When the exhibition closed he left but has lived in the UK ever since.

He would later reflect on his time in the post: "It was the best and worst time ever. It was great because it taught me about crisis management. I had come out of Euro Disney thinking I was bulletproof and then came the dome. But the politics were awful. It took me six months to recover after the job."

Not long after leaving he became CEO of X-Leisure, which at the time owned a snow park and leisure centre in Milton Keynes.

"I had come out of Euro Disney thinking I was bulletproof and then came the dome..."

Under his leadership, the snow venue became one of the nation's top tourist attractions and it built up a £600m portfolio which included casinos, leisure parks, the West India Quay in London's Docklands and a number of shopping centres.

In 2013, he sold his majority stake in the firm to Land Securities in a deal which saw the firm take over the management company for £111.9m.

While not disclosing how much his stake was worth, we can assume he's not short of a bob or two.

Paramount Pictures pulled out of its naming rights deal in 2017 - but has now returned
Paramount Pictures pulled out of its naming rights deal in 2017 - but has now returned

Since then he's had his fingers in plenty of pies, including the rather enviable role of chief restructuring officer at the luxury Tuckers Point resort in Bermuda and chairman of Spain's famous La Manga Club Resort.

A self-confessed workaholic (he says his dedication to success at Euro Disney played a major role in the ending of his first marriage), he is also a visiting professor of entrepreneurship and corporate rescue at London Business School and Imperial College.

Now, as the newly appointed chief executive of the London Resort he faces perhaps his toughest task.

How the London Resort was originally to have looked before Paramount initially pulled out of the project
How the London Resort was originally to have looked before Paramount initially pulled out of the project

After all the initial enthusiasm and promises of jobs and fabulous facilities on our doorstep, the resort's doubters having adopted a permanently smug look of "I told you so" as it has moved forward slower than a lethargic snail.

Few would bet, however, against the Frenchman working his magic. After all, if he can't, it's hard to imagine who else could.

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