Disney unveils new structure and leadership, avoids Peltz showdown

Bob Iger

Following news that The Walt Disney Company is to cut 7000 jobs, the company’s CEO Bob Iger has unveiled details of the firm’s strategic restructuring. 

Effective immediately, the company will be organised into three core, collaborative business segments: Disney Entertainment, ESPN, and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. The leaders of each business segment will have full operational control and financial responsibility for creative development, marketing, technology, sales, and distribution, and will be accountable for driving business efficiencies globally.

Iger said he is “committed to positioning this company for a new era of growth. Our restructuring will return creativity to the centre, increase accountability, improve results, and ensure the quality of our content and experiences.”

In the new set up, Disney Entertainment will be co-chaired by Alan Bergman and Dana Walden who will be responsible for the company’s full portfolio of entertainment media and content businesses globally, including streaming. Between them, Bergman and Walden will oversee the global entertainment streaming businesses and manage all content decisions for those services, including Disney+ and Hulu.

ESPN will include ESPN networks and ESPN+ and will be led by Jimmy Pitaro. Pitaro will also be responsible for the management of the company’s full portfolio of sports content, products and experiences across all Disney platforms worldwide.

Outside North America, the company’s media, entertainment, and sports content and operations will continue to be managed regionally by Luke Kang, president Asia Pacific; Jan Koeppen, president EMEA; Diego Lerner, president LatAm; and K Madhavan, president India. These regional heads will report to Bergman, Walden, and Pitaro as part of their global responsibilities. As a result of the changes, Rebecca Campbell, chairman, international content and operations, is leaving the company.

The dust is yet to settle on Iger’s reshuffle but one immediate result is that activist investor Nelson Peltz has withdrawn his opposition to the board, which was expected to feature prominently in an April meeting. Going forward, Walden, Bergman and Pitaro will take charge of the proposed job layoffs. In a memo, they said the upcoming cuts “will affect every segment and function across the company”.

In a related note, Iger told CNBC that he is open to the possibility of selling US-based streaming platform Hulu. Currently, Disney owns the majority of the business, but 33% belongs to rival studio Comcast. Under a pre-existing agreement, Comcast can compel Disney to buy its stake in 2024. So Disney has to make a decision about whether it wants to do this, or look to sell the business off (maybe to Comcast). Iger said: “Everything is on the table right, so I am not going to speculate whether we are a buyer or a seller of it. But I have suggested that I’m concerned about undifferentiated general entertainment, particularly in the competitive landscape we are operating in.”

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