As David Bowie once sang, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!” As it tends to do from time to time in the post-Bob Iger era, Disney has been making a lot of changes left and right. From political firestorms in the news surrounding new laws in Florida to employee dissatisfaction at seemingly all levels of the company, Disney has had its fair share of storms to weather in recent memory. Now, it appears that one of Disney’s top executives may be leaving altogether, puzzling many insiders and Disney die-hards.
As noted by The Hollywood Reporter today, Peter Rice is bowing out at Disney, and the move may be seen as more of a power struggle than a scandal of sorts. Rice was Disney’s chairman of entertainment and programming, chiefly responsible for overseeing most of Disney’s television projects. This included ABC, Disney Branded Television, FX, and National Geographic to name a few. ESPN was apparently not under Rice’s supervision, although most of its programming takes place on television.
When Bob Iger retired from Disney in 2020 after an exceptional 15 years as CEO of the company, Peter Rice was often seen as the natural successor to Iger. Rice came to Disney when the company acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019, according to Deadline, along with his chief deputy Dana Walden. Since Rice’s ouster, Walden, who is currently Chairman of Entertainment at Walt Disney Television has now been appointed in Rice’s role to succeed him.
Much of this Hollywood shakeup has to do with Bob Chapek, who is currently the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. As CNBC reports today, Disney’s board is siding with the chief executive officer over what he termed as not a culture fit, with Rice not being a collaborative part of the company. Supposedly Chapek noted in his firing of Rice that he received feedback from several Disney employees, who all felt that Rice didn’t work well with others. In explaining the reasons for his firing to Rice, Chapek expressed that he believed Rice wanted to control his own “fiefdom,” as CNBC reported by a person familiar with the situation.
Bob Chapek has been a controversial CEO for Disney since he replaced Bob Iger at the beginning of 2020. Since the start of his tenure, the pandemic began, but Chapek focused largely on reopening many of Disney’s theme parks. Shanghai Disneyland was the first to reopen in May 2020, with similarly limited capacity openings at other parks around the world following suit. That same year, the company had a primary focus to premiere many of their films on the streaming platform Disney+ rather than waiting until they could arrive in theaters, angering some of the stars of the films, according to CNBC. This included the much-talked-about Soul and the live-action version of Mulan.
As far as Dana Walden is concerned, it looks like Bob Chapek and the board are happy with their decision to replace Peter Rice with Walden. Chapek believes Walden will work much better with others at Disney, and be more collaborative than Rice ever was. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Rice had two years left on his contract prior to his firing, so he will most likely earn a sizable payout upon his exit.