Disney fires TV boss described as ‘not right for new culture’

Peter Rice

In an unexpected move, Disney CEO Bob Chapek on Thursday announced a major leadership change including the ousting of its top TV executive.

The company has moved to sack Peter Rice, the company’s chairman of entertainment and programming. He has been replaced by Dana Walden, who will become chair of Disney general entertainment content.

According to The Hollywood Reporter Rice, who joined Disney when the company acquired 21st Century Fox, was summoned to Chapek’s office on Monday and relieved of his duties in a meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes. The CEO reportedly told Rice that he was not suited to the “new Disney culture”.

In a memo to staff, Rice wrote: “I am so proud of the work we have done together, the friendships we have forged and the consistent success we have celebrated. We have the honour of working in the world’s greatest and most creative industry at a time of enormous change. In the midst of this, together we have created amazing and award-winning television shows and I am eternally grateful for your kindness and generosity on the journey.”

In his own memo sent out on Thursday, Chapek confirmed Rice’s replacement as Dana Walden, who also joined Disney in the Fox deal. He wrote: “Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently delivers the entertainment audiences crave.”

Walden added that it is “an incredible honour to be asked to lead this amazingly talented team” and that he is “grateful to Bob for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” 

The Hollywood Reporter story goes on to claim that it was believed that Rice was angling to replace Chapek, who has suffered multiple missteps since taking over from long-time Disney CEO Bob Eiger in early 2020, such as the company’s stance on Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Chapek’s contract ends at the end of February 2023 and there has been little indication of it being renewed.

Amid the shakeup, Disney board chair Susan Arnold issued a statement of confidence in the CEO, stating: “Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the board.”

Disney this week launched its streaming service Disney+ in the Middle East and North Africa, going live in 15 Arab countries.

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