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Historical Timeline

Significant Events in the History of Catalina Island and the Island Company


7,000 to 8,000 years ago

According to archaeological evidence, the first inhabitants of Santa Catalina Island arrive during this period.


Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo claims the island for Spain and names it San Salvador after the flagship of his fleet.


On the eve of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Day, Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno lands on the island and renames it Santa Catalina in her honor.


Catalina Island’s sea otter population is wiped out by American, Russian and Aleut Indian hunters.


Mexico gains its independence from Spain, and Santa Catalina Island becomes a territory of Mexico.


Santa Catalina Island becomes part of the United States when Pio Pico, Mexico’s last Governor of California, issues Boston native Thomas Robbins a Mexican Land Grant, making Robbins the first private owner of the island


Catalina is settled by fishermen, leaseholders, and squatters, who bring sheep and cattle to the island


During the Civil War, Union troops scout the west end of Catalina as a possible location for an Indian Reservation. They build barracks at what is now Two Harbors. The oldest building on the island, the barracks are used today by the Isthmus Yacht Club.


The entire island is brought under the ownership of the James Lick Trust, which leases it to ranchers as grazing land for up to 22,000 sheep, 4,200 cattle, and 15,000 goats.


  • George Shatto buys Santa Catalina Island from the James Lick Trust, with the goal of turning it into a tourist destination.
  • Shatto’s sister-in-Law, Etta Whittney, gives Avalon its name after reading Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King,” about King Arthur's quest for Avalon.


  • Shatto builds what is now Avalon’s oldest house on the west side of the city. 
  • Shatto builds Hotel Metropole, the island's first hotel, and establishes a Tent City.


Avalon Community Church, Catalina's first church, is built.


“Lookout Cottage,” now referred to as Holly Hill House, is built on the east side of Avalon by Peter Gano. 


Ownership of the island reverts back to the James Lick Trust after Shatto defaults on his agreement.


  • Brothers William, Joseph, and Hancock Banning purchase Santa Catalina Island from the Lick Estate (sheriff’s auction).
  • They build a 3-hole golf course, (oldest course west of the Mississippi), tennis courts, freshwater and sewage systems, toilets with salt water flush, and saltwater fire hydrants.
  • The brothers also bring electricity to Avalon, improve roads, and offer police and fire protection.


  • The Bannings form the Santa Catalina Island Company, and William Banning is named president.
  • Catalina Island Company introduces the first stagecoach tours into the island’s interior.


The Zahn Brothers start carrier pigeon messenger mail service between Catalina Island and the mainland.


  • Considered the birthplace of big game sport fishing, Avalon Tuna Club is founded by naturalist and author, Charles Frederick Holder.
  • Today, Avalon Tuna Club is the oldest sport fishing club in the United States. 


Near the present-day site of Bluewater Avalon on the Avalon waterfront, Santa Catalina Island Company builds what was then one of the largest aquariums in the world.


Santa Catalina Island Company initiates a land survey for a new resort camp called the Isthmus on the west end of Catalina Island, where the town of Two Harbors is now located.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company installs a power plant to generate electricity for Avalon.
  • The Company launches the paddle wheel-driven Cleopatra, the first steam-powered Glass Bottom Boat.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company assumes operation of the Island Villa tent housing franchise.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company completes Stagecoach Road from Avalon to the Isthmus (Two Harbors).
  • The Wilmington Transportation Company launches the cross-channel steamship SS Cabrillo.


Santa Catalina Island Company offers land in Avalon for private ownership – including flats and eastern terrace lots.


The Pleasure Pier, known today as the Green Pier, is completed.


Avalon Freeholders Improvement Association is formed and given title to the Pleasure Pier.


County-wide ordinance prohibiting sale of alcohol in Avalon provides impetus for residents to incorporate into a city and self-determine their stance on the temperance issue.


Avalon is incorporated and becomes a city.


Bond issue to raise funds for the City of Avalon to buy utility system from the Santa Catalina Island Company fails.


Fire devastates one-third of Avalon, including Hotel Metropole, the city's largest hotel.


Santa Catalina Island Company begins construction on Hotel St. Catherine in Descanso Canyon.


Hotel St. Catherine opens for the summer season.


  • The Banning brothers sell the Santa Catalina Island Company to a Pasadena real estate syndicate that includes William Wrigley Jr.
  • David Blankenhorn named president of the Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • William Wrigley Jr. acquires majority interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company and Wilmington Transportation Company.


  • J. H. Patrick named president of the Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company purchases SS Avalon.
  • Wilmington Transportation Company acquires the Meteor Boat Company and its glass bottom boats.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company opens Hotel Atwater, the first hotel built under Wrigley's ownership.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company builds Sugar Loaf dance hall on the site now occupied by the Catalina Casino.
  • The field where the Chicago Cubs held Spring Training from 1921 to 1951, except during the World War II years, is built in Avalon Canyon.


Santa Catalina Island Company sets up mining operations and begin prospecting for valuable minerals on the island.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches cross-channel steamer SS Catalina, Flying Fish tour boat Blanche W., and Glass Bottom Boat MV Princess.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company builds Thompson Reservoir near Middle Ranch to provide fresh water to residents of Avalon.


The Catalina Chimes Tower is built to house the Deagan Westminster Chimes, a gift to the people of Avalon from William and Ada Wrigley.


Santa Catalina Island Company halts all mining operations on the island.


  • 17-year-old Canadian amateur swimmer George Young is the lone finisher of the first and only Wrigley Ocean Marathon, covering the 22 miles from Two Harbors to the San Pedro shore in 15 hours and 45 minutes to win the $25,000 prize.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company establishes Catalina Pottery and Tile Company at Pebbly Beach. At its peak, the company employs more than 100 islanders and produces 10,000 to 15,000 pieces per week.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company opens Bird Park, which houses thousands of birds and features what was then the world’s largest aviary.


  • William Wrigley Jr. builds the Catalina Country Club as the Spring Training clubhouse for his Chicago Cubs.
  • Pebbly Beach Road from Crescent Avenue to the present-day site of Cabrillo Mole deeded to the City of Avalon.


After only 14 months of construction, the iconic Catalina Casino celebrates its Grand Opening on May 29, 1929.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company acquires Catalina Jaunting Car Company.
  • Catalina Island Golf Course is expanded from nine to 18 holes.
  • Paddle wheel-powered glass bottom boat MV Emperor is destroyed in a storm.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches paddle wheel-powered glass bottom boat MV Phoenix.
  • Wilmington-Catalina Airlines begins amphibious plane service to the newly-constructed terminal at Hamilton Cove.


  • William Wrigley Jr. passes away at the age of 70 in his suite at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix Ariz.
  • Philip Knight Wrigley is named president of William Wrigley Jr. Company and the Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Artists Dorothy and Otis Shepard arrive at Catalina Island to create Early California Spanish ambiance in Avalon.
  • Construction begins on El Rancho Escondido, the Wrigley family ranch in the island’s interior, where champion Arabian horses are raised.


CBS Radio begins broadcasting Big Band music across the nation live from the Casino Ballroom.


  • Diesel-powered, paddle wheel-driven glass bottom boat MV Empress is destroyed in a storm.
  • Construction on Dorothy and Otis Shepard’s Early California Spanish-themed waterfront revitalization project begins in Avalon.


  • Catalina Pottery and Tile Company ceases operations at Pebbly Beach.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company sells collection of molds to ceramics company Gladding McBean of Lincoln, Calif.


Santa Catalina Island Company builds and enters a float in the 1940 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.


Under the direction of Philip Knight Wrigley, Santa Catalina Island Company begins construction on what is now known as Airport-in-the-Sky.

1942-1945 WWII

  • Catalina Island closes to visitors and becomes a Federal Military Zone and training base.
  • Training facilities are set up for Maritime Service in Avalon; Coast Guard and Navy at the Isthmus; OSS (now CIA) at Toyon Bay, and Signal Corps at Camp Cactus.
  • The SS Catalina, SS Avalon, and Blanche W. are used as troop transports.


Catalina’s Airport-in-the-Sky opens for public use after the U.S. Military leaves the island following WWII


Santa Catalina Island Company launches the diesel-powered glass bottom boat MV Toyon.


Philip and Helen Wrigley rename the Isthmus on Catalina’s west end to Two Harbors.


Santa Catalina Island Company launches the Inland Motor Tour, which takes visitors into the island’s interior aboard diesel-powered Flxible buses.


The Chicago Cubs hold their final Spring Training in Avalon, 30 years after William Wrigley Jr. first brought the team to Catalina in 1921.


Santa Catalina Island Company assists in the formation of the Catalina Island Museum Society and provides space in the Catalina Casino to house its collection.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company initiates range and wildlife management program.
  • Efforts begin to find faster, more frequent cross-channel boat service to replace aging steam ships.


The Wrigley Company’s Chicago-based ad agency Arthur Meyerhoff Associates establishes an office in Avalon.


Doug and Audrey Bombard take over control of Catalina Cove and Camp Department, which includes Two Harbors.


Santa Catalina Island Company opens Pavilion Lodge on the waterfront site once occupied by the “Old Dance Pavilion.”


Santa Catalina Island Company launches the diesel-powered Spanish galleon-styled glass bottom boat MV Nautilus to replace the 35-year-old MV Princess.


  • Catalina Island Company develops a land use planning program to shape its long-range vision for the island.
  • Commissioned in 1924, the SS Catalina, known as the “Great White Steamer, is sold to M.G.R.S. Company, Inc.


Control of water, electricity, and gas utilities for Catalina Island are turned over to Southern California Edison.


Santa Catalina Island Company grants University of Southern California 5.3 acres of land at Big Fisherman’s Cove (next to Isthmus Cove on the west end) for a Marine Science Center.


Built by the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1918, historic Hotel St. Catherine in Descanso Canyon is torn down.


  • Construction begins on University of Southern California Marine Science Center.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company deeds the Cabrillo Mole shore area and Avalon Cemetery to the City of Avalon.


Built in the 1920s, the Steamer Pier, where millions of passengers disembarked from the SS Catalina, SS Avalon and other passenger vessels over the years, is dismantled, leaving the Green Pier as the only pier in Avalon Bay.


Santa Catalina Island Company launches Discover the Casino Tour, a narrated walking tour that explores Avalon Theatre, the Casino Ballroom, and other areas of Catalina’s most famous landmark.


Santa Catalina Island Company and the City of Avalon sign a Development Agreement for Hamilton Cove condominium project.


  • The Company grants USC an additional 8.8 acres of land for construction of a housing and food service complex at the Marine Science Center.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company forms the Catalina Island Conservancy.


Santa Catalina Island Company and Southern California Edison begin to study the viability of a seawater desalination plant for the Island.


Santa Catalina Island Company signs an Open Space easement with Los Angeles County.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company stockholders and members of the Wrigley and Offield families donate shares of the Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy.
  • After redeeming its shares for title to 88% of the island, the Conservancy embarks on its mission to preserve and protect that land in perpetuity.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company grants four oceanfront parcels to the City of Avalon.


  • Philip Knight Wrigley passes away at age 82 in Elkhorn, Wis.
  • Claude Brooks named President of Santa Catalina Island Company.


The City of Avalon buys land from Santa Catalina Island Company for a new fire station.


  • Local Coastal Plan for Santa Catalina Island approved and certified.
  • Tour bus garage and service station relocated from Tremont Street to Pebbly Beach.


After being destroyed by fire, a portion of the Terminal Building in Avalon is rebuilt and reopened as Busy Bee and Armstrong’s Seafood restaurants.


  • Philip Knight Wrigley’s son, William (Bill) Wrigley, named President of the Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches a Twilight Dinner Cruise to Two Harbors aboard the Blanche W.


  • The Visitors Information Center opens at the corner of Crescent and Catalina Avenues in Avalon.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company sells first Hamilton Cove condominium units.


  • The Company resumes operations of Pavilion Lodge and Hotel Atwater, taking control from a third-party management company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches an in-house publication called “Water Lines.”
  • Santa Catalina Island Company establishes a telephone reservation department.
  • 35 golfers participate in the first Tugs, Tours and Tempers Golf Tournament.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company decommissions the glass bottom boat MV Toyon.
  • The Company launches the glass bottom boat MV Moonstone.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company assumes operations of the Casino Ballroom and other Company properties.


  • William (Bill) Wrigley is named CEO of Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Paxson H. Offield (great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr.) is named President of the Company.
  • Phase II of the “Old Terminal Building” revitalization project is completed with the opening of Antonio’s, Catalina Gear and Big Olaf’s Ice Cream shop.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company assumes operation of Avalon Theatre in the Casino.
  • Hermit’s Gulch Campground opens for business.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company refurbishes the Casino Ballroom.
  • The first annual JazzTrax jazz festival is held in the Casino.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company presents 15-year Concept Plans to the community.
  • Desalination engineering cost study concludes.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company begins renovating the Pavilion Lodge.
  • Pointe Builders selected for Descanso Resort project.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company works with the City of Avalon to enable Eucalyptus Hill housing project.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company redesigns the Tour Plaza.
  • Descanso Resort and 15-year Plan Environmental Impact Report is completed.


  • Pavilion Lodge receives AAA 3-Diamond Award following its renovation.
  • City of Avalon certifies Descanso Resort and 15-year Plan Environmental Impact Report.


  • Paxson H. Offield named CEO of Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company begins renovations at Avalon Theatre.
  • Contract for the construction of a semi-submersible tour vessel is signed.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company begins improvements on Pebbly Beach commercial areas.
  • The Company donates Joe Machado Softball Field and Avalon Canyon Road to the City of Avalon.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company celebrates its 100th Anniversary'
  • Company submits Development Agreement for The Pointe Resort to the City of Avalon'
  • Santa Catalina Island Company makes Tremont Hall available for 10 years to the City of Avalon for use as a Community Center'
  • Company commissions Starlight, the company’s first semi-submersible tour vessel.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company restores murals and recovers seats at Avalon Theatre.


  • The glass bottom boat MV Phoenix is sold.
  • Carnival Cruises begins weekly calls to Avalon.
  • Paxson Offield Enterprises takes over operations of The Pointe Resort after it terminates its relationship with Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company commissions Emerald, the company’s second semi-submersible tour vessel.


Hotel Atwater undergoes an extensive renovation.


  • Catalina Country Club receives a seismic retrofit and renovation.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company builds a new ticket booth on the Pleasure Pier.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company’s website goes live.

1997 and 1998

  • Wilmington Transportation Company, a subsidiary of Santa Catalina Island Company, is sold.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company acquires Doug Bombard Enterprises and establishes Two Harbor Enterprises.


  • William (Bill) Wrigley passes away at age 66 in Chicago.
  • Paxson Offield is elected Chairman of the Board of Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Two Harbors Enterprises acquires the Two Harbors operations of Paxson Offield Enterprises.


  • Catalina Island Resort Services is established and acquires the Avalon operations of Paxson Offield Enterprises.
  • Catalina Cruises exits the PUC-regulated cross-channel commercial transportation business.


  • Catalina Island tourism is dramatically impacted by the 9/11 terror attacks.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company names Ron Doutt its President.


Santa Catalina Island Company launches the Cape Canyon Tour.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company remodels the Pavilion Lodge.
  • Catalina Country Club Restaurant undergoes renovations.


  • The Company purchases a Unimog and introduces Adventure Tours.
  • El Rancho Escondido Trophy Room and Gift Shop are renovated.
  • Three more Flxible buses are added to the Company’s fleet of tour vehicles.
  • All Flxible buses are converted to power steering and “sky” windows are added.


  • Severe rains close boat terminal and interior roads.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company upgrades its website and adds internet sales capability.


  • New pier and dinghy docks are built at Two Harbors.
  • Thirty-two new moorings are approved and installed at Two Harbors.
  • Island Press Block receives an upgrade.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company names Ron Doutt Chief Executive Officer.
  • Ground-breaking grapevine planting operation competed at El Rancho Escondido.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company renovates lighting installations at Catalina Casino.
  • John Anglin steps down from Board of Directors.
  • Trevor Fetter, Drew Lanza and Catherine Stephens join the Board.
  • A fire breaks out in Avalon Canyon on May 10. Cross channel boats are provided for people to evacuate the island.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company hires Randall Herrel as Executive Vice President and COO.


  • Randall Herrel named President
  • Kenny Loggins performs at the Casino


  • Santa Catalina Island Company President Ron Doutt retires.
  • Randall Herrel named Chief Executive Officer and President.
  • Geoffrey C. Rusack elected Chairman of the Board of Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Marie Knowles joins Board of Directors.
  • First grape harvest at El Rancho Escondido begins September 1.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company renovates Old Tremont housing.
  • Triana housing added to the Company’s portfolio.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches Sea Trek® Undersea Adventure.
  • The Company renovates Catalina Casino exterior.
  • A new gas station is built at Two Harbors.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches the Zip Line Eco Tour in Descanso Canyon.
  • Pavilion Lodge undergoes a complete renovation and is renamed Pavilion Hotel.
  • The Company opens Avalon Grille on the corner of Crescent and Catalina Aves.
  • Descanso Beach Club undergoes an extensive renovation with the addition of new cabanas and chaise lounges, restrooms, and landscaping.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company installs new sound system in Avalon Theatre.
  • The Company launches Casino Behind the Scenes Tour.
  • Catalina Grand Prix motorcycle race returns to the island after fifty-two years.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches Quality of Service Program.
  • Catalina Climbing Wall is installed near the back of Descanso Beach Club.


  • The Company initiates new information technology solutions.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company reorganizes and forms Santa Catalina Island Resort Services.
  • City of Avalon re-opens Pebbly Beach Road after Santa Catalina Island Company grants it an easement.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company opens offices in Irvine, Calif.
  • Catalina Island enters Stage 1 water rationing.
  • Bluewater Avalon restaurant opens.
  • Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation is formed.
  • Project Catalina Renaissance is launched.


  • Santa Catalina Island Company opens Island Spa Catalina in Avalon’s El Encanto building.
  • SoCal Edison implements Stage 2 water rationing.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company completes second phase of Descanso Beach Club improvements.
  • Shops at the Atwater opens in the former Atwater Arcade next to Hotel Atwater.


  • Paxson H. Offield, former Chairman of the Board, passes away.
  • Catherine’s Terrace, a banquet and wedding venue, opens at Descanso Beach Club.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company adds The Inn on Mt. Ada to its portfolio of hotel properties.
  • Pavilion and Riviera Block receive face lifts.
  • Ben’s Bakery, the island’s first homemade bakery, opens in Shops at the Atwater.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company helps launch new Latitude 33 retail shop.
  • The General Store at Two Harbors receives interior face lift, with the addition of new floors and fixtures.
  • Picnic area installed at Golf Gardens Miniature Golf.


  • Catalina Aerial Adventure and the Cyclone power boat are in the planning stages.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company discontinues Sea Trek® Undersea Adventure.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company sells land next to the Tour Plaza to Vons for new grocery store.
  • The Company implements free non-potable water program to help residents cope with drought restrictions.
  • New Two Harbors Business Center opens near Isthmus Pier.
  • The Company launches Catalina Dreamin’ loyalty and reservation program at Two Harbors.
  • Catalina Falconry Experience opens at Descanso Beach Club.
  • Catalina Island reaches Stage 3 water rationing.
  • Five units at Country Club Apartments undergo major renovations.
  • The former Hen House and original Island Villa converted into a new camping check-in office in the Tour Plaza.
  • The City of Avalon returns Field of Dreams to the Santa Catalina Island Company.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company selects Avalon Freight Service as new freight operator.


  • Catalina Aerial Adventure opens in Descanso Canyon in time for summer season.
  • Cyclone begins offering Flying Fish Voyages and trips to Two Harbors.
  • Santa Catalina Island Company launches Avalon Harbor Lights Tour.
  • Harbor Sands opens at Two Harbors, with palapas, lounge chairs, group BBQ venue, and ocean front dining.
  • Catalina Island returns to Stage 1 water rationing after a record 23 inches of rainfall,
  • Owners of Mr. Ning’s Chinese Restaurant announce their retirement.
  • Company’s operating name is changed to Catalina Island Company.


  • The 4th annual Catalina Wine Mixer sets a new attendance record, as nearly 3,000 turn out at Descanso Beach Club.
  • Hotel Atwater, the first hotel built by the Wrigley family, closes for a complete renovation.
  • Four hillside cabanas open at Descanso Beach Club, with personalized beach butler, flat screen TVs, and high speed WiFi.
  • Avalon Grille debuts Make-a-Difference Mondays, a charitable program that donates proceeds from sales to local organizations.
  • Anglers compete for $10,000 in cash prizes at Catalina’s White Sea Bass Jackpot fishing tournament, which returned to Two Harbors after a 4-year hiatus.
  • Avalon General Store opens in the Terminal Block, offering a selection of gifts, apparel, and island necessities.
  • Company launches three all-electric tour buses, the world’s first long-range 23-foot battery-electric motor coaches ever used in Southern California.
  • Catalina Island Company donates more than $100,000 in cash, services and gift certificates to support charitable causes in 2018.


  • Southern California Edison lifts all restrictions on water usage after February rains fill Thompson Reservoir to overflowing.
  • Catalina Island Company launches year-long celebration of its 125th Anniversary and Wrigley Centennial.
  • Company launches two narrated bus tours—Wrigley’s Catalina and Magnificent Mt Ada—for a limited time as part of its 125 Anniversary and Wrigley Centennial.
  • Company launches in-house call center to enhance guest communications and improve the reservation experience.
  • Company hires Robb Walker as COO to help further its reputation as Catalina’s premier provider of resort services.
  • Catalina Island Company launches a new Hummer tour called Bison Expedition.
  • Bistro at the Atwater, a new fresh-and-go café, opens in Shops at the Atwater.
  • The completely remodeled Hotel Atwater opens with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 5.
  • The 5th Catalina Wine Mixer breaks its previous attendance record, as more than 3,200 turn out at Descanso Beach Club.


  • COVID-19 pandemic causes Catalina Island Company to temporarily close most of its operations. 
  • New seasonal Rumble & Trek tour launches, combining a Hummer ride and hike along the Airport Loop Trail. 
  • Catalina Island Company hosts once-in-a-lifetime sleepover experience in the iconic Catalina Casino.
  • The Descanso Base Camp is used as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
  • Randy Herrel retires from positions as Chief Executive Officer and President.


  • Geoffrey C. Rusack moves from Executive Chairman to President and Chief Executive Officer, Alison Wrigley Rusack moves from Vice Chairman of the board to Chairman, and board member Catherine K. Stephens becomes Executive Vice President of Catalina Island Company.