Universal's Theme Parks Gets Major Behind The Scenes Shakeup In The Midst Of Epic Universe Construction

Universal Orlando Resort Globe
(Image credit: Dirk Libbey)

This morning Universal Studios Hollywood revealed the opening date for its new Super Nintendo World next year. But in 2025 Universal Orlando Resort is going to have an even bigger opening when its third gate, the appropriately named Epic Universe, opens to the public. This makes the next few years key to Universal Parks & Resorts, which makes the fact that three major executives just took early retirement somewhat surprising.

According to The Wrap, Thierry Coup, the CCO of Universal Creative, the division that's similar to Walt Disney Imagineering, is in charge of creating attractions in all of Universal’s five global parks and resorts, has decided to take early retirement. That on its own would be notable, but it’s also being reported that Mike Hightower, President of Universal Creative, and Mike Harrington, Vice President, engineering and safety at Universal Studios Florida, are doing the same.

It’s a pretty significant brain drain at the top of Universal Creative, that is happening right in the middle of what is quite possibly the most important time in the organization’s history. The Universal Beijing Resort opened just over a year ago. Universal Studios Hollywood will be opening its largest expansion in years in February, and rumor is a major new Fast & Furious roller coaster is currently in the development stages at the park. Add to that significant updates happening at Universal Orlando Resort, and oh yeah, the entirely new theme park.

One might have expected these executives, especially Coup and Hightower, to oversee the opening of the new theme park, and then take their retirement, but apparently the offer was just too good to pass up. NBCUniversal reportedly has a standing early retirement package available to anybody who is over 57-years-old and has worked in the organization for at least 10 years. 

It’s possible that now actually is the best time for these execs to step back. Perhaps, because Epic Universe construction is already well underway, all the decisions that would need to have been made at the top levels have been made, so all these guys would have done is wait for the park to open. It’s certainly unlikely at this point that anything regarding the plan for what the park is will actually change. While very little outside of Orlando’s own Super Nintendo World, has actually been confirmed for Epic Universe, we have a pretty strong indication of what the entire park will actually look like.

Universal Parks and Resorts has seen significant growth and development under Thierry Coup and so losing him was going to be a big deal at any time. Having said that, there’s no indication that these losses are a major problem, though it seems impossible there will not be some repercussions that could cause delays in development, something that has been moving at a significant pace for the last several years under the now former management.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.