Since this thread was started with one of my posts from another thread, I'll give you some additional thoughts as to why I feel Tony might be heading for "voluntary retirement" in the near future.
As techskip stated, Tony has had to fight for everything in the past several years, including his 2007 return to his previous position as WDI creative executive for DL. But what exactly does that even mean, now that much of that position's responsibility has been usurped by Tom Fitzgerald? Tom was put in charge of the entire Anaheim resort earlier this year, with Tony and Bob Weis reporting directly to him. That's a huge slap in the face for Baxter, to now have that additional layer of management between him and Bruce Vaughn, when that didn't exist three years ago. Given Tony's history with WDI and his excellent track record of delivering high quality attractions and parks... why does he need to be "supervised" by Tom Fitzgerald in the first place? That makes no sense to me whatsoever, unless there's an ulterior motive behind it.
Bob Weis will soon be off working exclusively on his baby (the new Shanghai park), and Tom will be taking over his role as creative exec for DCA. Hmm... doesn't that seem rather convenient? Bob was handed Shanghai before Fitzgerald was put in charge of the entire Anaheim resort; it was a given that Weis would be leaving DCA to work on Shanghai in the near future. Once that happens, Tom will be in charge of DCA, in addition to the entire Anaheim resort. But Tony will still be reporting to Tom? I'm sorry, but this simply does not pass the sniff test.
Bringing Tom to the resort before Bob leaves to work on Shanghai makes sense. But putting him over both Bob and Tony does not, unless there's a bigger role in the future for Tom to fill. Since all of the design work for DCA's expansion is pretty much completed, Tom will simply be overseeing the construction, once he takes over for Bob. And once the expansion is finished in 2012, there won't be much left for him to do for DCA, since it will be years before Disney decides to sink any more capital into the park. Phase I will first need to prove itself successful before Phase II is seriously considered by Burbank.
So... Tom won't have much to do with DCA, so he'll spend the bulk of his time overseeing the hotels and supervising Tony. Really? An Executive Vice President for WDI will be spending his career giving creative direction to three hotels and supervising a fully capable Senior Vice President who doesn't need his supervision?
Given the hyperfocus Disney has placed on austerity in these recent years, why would they allow waste at this level to exist? Wouldn't it be cheaper to have Tom Fitzgerald manage all of Anaheim, including DL? If you allow yourself to think like a modern cost-cutting corporate leader, this is precisely the direction you'd take in order to conserve capital and pump up the bottom line.
I simply do not see Disney having the stomach to keep both Fitzgerald and Baxter in Anaheim, doing the work of basically one person. The DLR is not WDW, and doesn't need as many Imagineers to oversee. Once DCA's Phase I is complete, Imagineering's role in DCA will be greatly reduced for several years. Only DL will need the extra attention, and that can certainly be handled by only one creative exec, not two. Since Tom is the new arrival, not to mention higher in rank and younger in age, I highly doubt he would be the one kicked to the curb.
For those who have been paying attention, Disney has been slowly removing their senior employees bit by bit. Don't let the "leaving voluntarily" action fool you... most of these lifers did not want to leave, but felt they had no choice in order to keep their future options open. Disney has definitely been downsizing its most senior execs over the past few years, in an effort to both reduce labor costs and more importantly, bring in younger employees who are easier to exploit.
Based on the average age of all employees, Disney is an old workforce, which almost all of corporate America detests now. Senior employees across all industries are losing their jobs in record numbers, mostly because corporate leaders no longer value their contributions and legacies within their respective companies. All they see and consequently care about is how much these senior employees cost the company in significantly higher salaries, which doesn't sit well in this day and age of maximizing profits at all costs.
If anyone here thinks that Iger's Disney is immune from this type of corporate mindset, think again. This is precisely the mindset of The Walt Disney Company today. Ask any senior Imagineer like Tim Delaney or Rick Rothschild, or any studio exec like Dick Cook. These were good people who still had plenty of vitality and creativity left to offer Disney. But in Disney's eyes, they were too long in the tooth to care about anymore. It's all about youth, and driving down the average employee age, currently in the late forties, to something far younger. And in the eyes of those individuals who fired Delaney and Cook, Baxter is ancient and grossly overpaid for someone who's being babysat by a younger exec with a higher rank.
Finally, if Tony were to "retire" as Marty Sklar and Dave Smith have done, I seriously doubt we would ever hear Tony admit that it wasn't exactly his idea to leave. Part of deal with leaving "voluntarily" is to keep the prospect of contract work alive. If Disney drags you to the curb kicking and screaming, you can kiss your chances of future contract work or invites to special events goodbye. None of the die-hard lifers like Marty or Dave or even Tony would ever jeopardize that, just to prove to their fans that Disney was a big bad meanie and took away their permanent salaried positions. No exec who has achieved that level of seniority would ever be stupid enough to shoot themselves in the foot like that.
Do I believe that Tony will be coerced into retirement this year? I don't know; it's possible. Do I believe that Tony will be gone within a year or two? Yes. I don't see Tony remaining much longer, given the current situation with Fitzgerald. I also don't believe Burbank would want to continue paying Tony's high salary, given all the penny-pinching they're doing in every aspect of the company. Corporate America absolutely hates the well-paid senior exec with decades of service, and Disney is no exception.