Disney CEO Bob Chapek fires content chief Peter Rice in shock move


Disney CEO Bob Chapek fires content chief Peter Rice in shock move after industry speculation the exec was gunning to replace his embattled boss

  • Disney CEO Bob Chapek fired top exec Peter Rice in surprise move on Thursday
  • Rice, Disney’s chief content officer, was widely seen as Chapek’s No. 2
  • But insiders say that Rice had been angling to replace the embattled CEO
  • Hours after Rice’s ouster, Disney’s board issued a statement backing Chapek
  • It is the board’s first public show of support since Chapek took over last year
  • Exec Dana Walden will replace Rice and report directly to Chapek in the new role 

Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek has fired his top lieutenant Peter Rice in a surprise move that follows industry speculation that Rice was angling to replace his embattled boss.

Rice, who was Disney’s top executive on television content, was fired in a brief meeting this week with Chapek, who told him he was a bad fit with the company’s corporate culture, according to the New York Times.

Sources who spoke with Reuters said Rice had clashed with Disney’s senior leadership, and that his departure was, according to one, ‘a long time coming.’

Industry insiders told the Hollywood Reporter that Rice was perceived as gunning to replace Chapek, who finally took full control of the company from Bob Iger at the end of last year, following an extended and tumultuous transition. 

Since Chapek took over, Disney’s stock has plunged by 33 percent, and the company has engaged in messy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who slammed Disney as ‘woke’ for opposing the state’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.

Peter Rice (above), who was Disney's top executive on television content, was fired in a brief meeting this week with Chapek following rumors he was plotting against the CEO

Peter Rice (above), who was Disney’s top executive on television content, was fired in a brief meeting this week with Chapek following rumors he was plotting against the CEO

Since Chapek (above) took over, Disney's stock has plunged by 33 percent, and the company has engaged in messy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Since Chapek (above) took over, Disney’s stock has plunged by 33 percent, and the company has engaged in messy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Rice’s bombshell firing, which comes years before his contract was due to expire and will cost the company dearly, was widely interpreted as a move by Chapek to consolidate power and eliminate a potential rival for the top spot at Disney.  

After Rice’s ouster was made public, Disney’s board chair issued a statement backing Chapek, marking the board’s first public show of support for the embattled CEO, who has only a few months left on his contract.

Rice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Disney spokesperson responded to an inquiry from DailyMail.com with a press release touting the promotion of Dana Walden, who will replace Rice.

Rice, who was widely seen as Chapek’s No. 2 in the company, had held the title of chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, and oversaw all original programming for the company’s streaming platforms and its cable and broadcast networks. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Chapek summoned Rice to his office and fired him in a meeting that lasted just seven minutes.

Embattled Chapek has presided over a sharp decline in Disney stock -- but the company's board on Thursday issued its first public statement backing him as CEO

Embattled Chapek has presided over a sharp decline in Disney stock — but the company’s board on Thursday issued its first public statement backing him as CEO 

Sources said that Chapek told Rice that he was not a fit in ‘the new Disney culture,’ to which Rice responded that he thought they were building the new culture, and asked in what way he was an ill fit.

Chapek responded, ‘Now is not the time’ and dismissed him abruptly, the sources said. 

The move was especially surprising after Chapek re-signed Rice to a new contract last summer. Rice reportedly had more than two years left on his contract, and Disney will have to pay him out for the remainder. 

As news of Rice’s firing spread, Disney board Chairwoman Susan E. Arnold issued a statement saying that Chapek had the board’s full backing. 

‘The strength of the Walt Disney Company’s businesses coming out of the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the company’s future,’ she said. 

‘In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the Board.’ 

The statement of support was seen as significant as Chapek’s contract is up in February, and the board will soon face decisions about renewing it. 

Rice was one of just four Disney execs who reported directly to Chapek, and replacing him will be Dana Walden.

Dana Walden will replace Rice and report directly to Chapek. Like Rice she joined Disney in 2019 with the company's acquisition of 21st Century Fox

Dana Walden will replace Rice and report directly to Chapek. Like Rice she joined Disney in 2019 with the company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox

Walden and Rice both joined Disney in 2019 with the company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and she oversaw entertainment for Walt Disney Television.

Under her leadership, the company had such hits as ABC’s ‘Abbott Elementary,’ the Hulu Original series ‘Only Murders in the Building’ and the Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning documentary ‘Summer of Soul.’

‘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,’ Chapek said in a statement.

Walden previously served as chairman and chief executive of the Fox Television Group, which included the Fox Broadcasting Company, whose studio produced such hits as ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Empire,’ ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Glee.’

In her new role at Disney, Walden will have oversight of ABC Entertainment, ABC News, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic Content and Onyx Collective.

Source

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