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

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

Rice, who was Disney’s chief executive of television content, was fired this week during a brief meeting with Chapek, who told him he didn’t fit with the company’s corporate culture, according to the company. New York Times

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

Industry insiders told the Hollywood reporter that Rice was seen as looking to replace Chapek, who took full control of the company from Bob Iger late last year after a lengthy and tumultuous transition.

Since Chapek took over, Disney’s shares have plunged 33 percent and the company has engaged in sloppy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who labeled Disney “awake” for opposing the so-called “Don’t State Say Gay’ Law. †

Peter Rice (above), who was Disney's chief executive of television content, was fired this week during a brief meeting with Chapek after rumors of plotting against the CEO.

Peter Rice (above), who was Disney’s chief executive of television content, was fired this week during a brief meeting with Chapek after rumors of plotting against the CEO.

Since Chapek (above) took over, Disney's shares have fallen 33 percent and the company has been embroiled in messy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Since Chapek (above) took over, Disney’s shares have fallen 33 percent and the company has been embroiled in messy public battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Rice’s bombing, which will end years before his contract expires 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 impeachment was made public, Disney’s chairman of the board released a statement supporting Chapek, marking the board’s first public statement 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 a question from DailyMail.com with a press release touting the promotion of Dana Walden, who will replace Rice.

Rice, widely regarded as Chapek’s #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 called Rice to his office and fired him in a meeting that lasted just seven minutes.

The controversial Chapek has presided over a sharp decline in Disney stock, but the company's board of directors released its first public statement on Thursday, supporting him as CEO.

The controversial Chapek has presided over a sharp decline in Disney stock, but the company’s board of directors released its first public statement on Thursday, supporting him as CEO.

Sources said Chapek told Rice he didn’t fit into “the new Disney culture,” to which Rice replied that he thought they were building the new culture, and asked how he wasn’t a fit.

Chapek replied: “This is not the right time” and abruptly dismissed him, the sources said.

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

As news of Rice’s resignation spread, Disney board chairman Susan E. Arnold issued a statement stating that Chapek had the board’s full support.

“The strength of Walt Disney Company’s businesses emerging from the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the company’s future,” she said.

“At this important time of business growth and transformation, we are determined to keep Disney on the successful path it is today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the Board of Directors.”

The statement of support was considered significant as Chapek’s contract expires in February, and the board will soon have to make decisions about its renewal.

Rice was one of only four Disney execs to report directly to Chapek, and Dana Walden will replace him.

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 hits such 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 also included the Fox Broadcasting Company, whose studio produced hits such as “This Is Us,” “Empire,” “Modern Family” and “Glee.”

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

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