Disney CEO Bob Chapek and his leadership team have the “support and confidence” of the company’s board of directors, according to a statement by Chairman Susan Arnold.
The affirmation comes on a stunning day for the company, as Chapek dismissed top TV exec Peter Rice less than a year after he signed a contract renewal. His former lieutenant, Dana Walden, is replacing him.
On the larger corporate front, the Rice news hit as Chapek was inching closer to the February expiration of his own contract. Although the general expectation has been that Chapek would re-up, Rice had been viewed as the strongest internal candidate to succeed him. The well-respected exec, who came to Disney via the $71.3 billion acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox, had been rumored to be atop Warner Bros Discovery’s wish list, though he withdrew from consideration.
“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,” Arnold 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.”
Thus far, shares in Disney have slipped only a fraction on the news, falling 2% to $105.39 at mid-day along with broader market declines. The stock has returned to lows last seen in April 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the company’s operations across theme parks, live sports and film production and distribution.
News that Rice was deemed to not be “a fit” with Disney’s corporate culture followed a tumultuous period for Chapek, who has faced criticism in 2022 over how the company has responded to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. The company parted ways with its short-tenured head of corporate communications, Geoff Morrell, amid the outcry.
Many on Wall Street appeared to be in “still processing” mode. “DID NOT see this coming,” tweeted Rich Greenfield of Lightshed Partners. “Remind us why Disney spent all that money on Fox?!?”
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