Disney CEO fires Peter Rice to great surprise

The era of significant change in the entertainment industry continued Thursday with the surprise firing of Disney General Entertainment Content president Peter Rice.

According to my colleague John Horn, he was fired by Disney CEO Bob Chapek in a seven-minute conversation.

The move comes as Chapek faces criticism from both inside and outside the company for a series of decisions. The Highest-Profile Controversy: The Company’s Slow Response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, even as it was preparing to relocate some 2,000 employees from Southern California to Florida.

The decision to initially stay out of the debate sparked criticism from both inside and outside Disney, with a number of employees speaking publicly. Legislation, which restricts the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity, has been widely considered anti-LGBTQ +.

What time?

Chapek took over from former Disney CEO Bob Iger in February 2020. He now has less than a year remaining for his contract as CEO, which will expire at the end of February 2023 and has yet to be renewed.

Why fire Rice now? Much of the industry speculation centers on whether Rice – who is highly respected in Hollywood – would be a prominent domestic candidate if Chapek were to be replaced at the end of his contract.

There’s also the fact that Rice talked about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation before Chapek. His remarks came after Chapek pledged a $ 5 million donation from the company to organizations working to protect LGBTQ + rights, a response some felt delayed.

Rice said in a statement that he viewed the law as “a violation of fundamental human rights and condemned any attempt to marginalize individuals on the basis of their identity.” She added: “I appreciate Bob acknowledging that we need to do more to support the LGBTQ + community.”

Chapek was also targeted by questions raised about the streaming economy across the industry. Disney + launched in November 2019 towards the end of Iger’s tenure, experiencing rapid initial growth, but like other streamers, Disney faces a potential plateau in its growth following large spending on both episodic and release shows. of films on the platform originally scheduled for theatrical release.

It was a time of huge streaming spending as companies fought for subscribers, with the idea that not all current services will survive. Netflix recently reported a loss of subscribers for the first time, and several streaming services have announced that they will add or try to add ad-supported options. Many Disney fans have also been critical of Chapek’s reign, with a sharp rise in both prices and upsells at the company’s theme parks.

Card support for Chapek

In its own statement, Disney’s board of directors expressed support for Chapek on Thursday. Disney Board Chair Susan Arnold’s statement said:

“The strength of The Walt Disney Company’s business as it emerges from the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the future of the company. In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the path of success it has taken today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and trust of the Board. ”

A press release from the company announced that Dana Walden will replace Rice and report directly to Chapek. Walden is Rice’s former deputy and longtime colleague – the company noted their close working relationship in his announcement. He passes from the position of president of the television division. Both Rice and Walden came to Disney from Fox during its acquisition.

“Dana is a dynamic and collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently satisfies the desire of the entertainment audience,” said Chapek in a statement.

Walden’s position includes overseeing both entertainment and news programming on broadcast, streaming and cable. Brands under his supervision include ABC, Disney, Freeform, FX, Hulu, and National Geographic. Some of his successes touted by Disney in the ad include those of ABC Elementary Abbotthe documentary by Onyx Collective Summer of the souland Hulu programs ranging from Only murders in the building to The Kardashians.

“It is an incredible honor to be invited to lead this extraordinarily talented team – they truly are the absolute best in every respect – and I am grateful to Bob for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walden said in a Disney press release.

Note: Peter Rice acts as a trustee for Southern California Public Radio, which includes LAist and KPCC. He has no involvement in news coverage.

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