Embattled Disney CEO Bob Chapek canned TV content boss Peter Rice on Thursday in a surprise shakeup that blindsided Disney employees, as well as Rice himself, sources said.
Rice — who oversaw the division that made over 300 shows a year for platforms like ABC, Disney Channel, Disney+, Hulu and FX — had recently renewed his contract through 2024, according to reports.
But Chapek personally brought down the hammer on Rice, according to the New York Times, which cited “an ill fit” with the Mouse House’s corporate culture.
Disney confirmed the ouster Thursday without providing any details of why Rice was let go.
Rice did not return requests for comment.
He will be replaced by his second in command, Dana Walden, who came over with Rice after Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. Rice had served as chairman of general entertainment content.
“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.
The CEO touted Walden’s achievements, which include “championing creative talent and developing programming that truly captures the cultural zeitgeist” such as ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning “Summer of Soul” and Hulu’s “The Dropout.”
Rice, who also oversaw ABC News, just renewed his contract at Disney in August, Puck News reported. It ran until the end of 2024 and Disney will pay the exec out, sources told the Times.
Chapek has had a difficult few months as he has grappled with the fallout from his fumbling response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Disney’s stock price has also plummeted as media watchers voiced concerns about the profitability of its streaming service. Under Chapek, the company let go of its most senior communications executive, Geoff Morrell, after just three months on the job.
All the press for a company that had run rather smoothly under Chapek’s predecessor, Bob Iger, caused some in Hollywood to speculate if Chapek was up to the job.
Disney chairman Susan Arnold gave Chapek the board’s backing in an emailed statement Thursday.
“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.”