It’s been just about 2 weeks since Disney CEO Bob Chapek shockingly fired Disney’s General Content executive, Peter Rice. The move left Hollywood insiders stunned, along with Rice, who reportedly had no idea it was coming. The same day that Peter Rice was fired, Disney announced that Dana Walden — the then-Chairman of Entertainment for Walt Disney Television Studios — would be taking his place as Chairman of . Walden and Rice had both come over to Disney as executives when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox in 2019.
When Rice’s firing was announced, there was a lot of speculation that he was let go because he was seen as a threat to Bob Chapek. According to Disney insiders, Rice had not hidden the fact that he wanted to become CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Chapek has struggled with popularity among both employees and Guests since he became CEO in 2020. Rice was seen as incredibly good at his job and was reportedly very well-liked by a large majority of employees, but was deemed “difficult to work with” by anonymous higher-level executives.
While Chapek may have considered Rice a huge threat to his leadership position at Disney, some believe that he has majorly underestimated Dana Walden, seeing her not so much as a threat, but as a follower. Several Disney insiders recently spoke with TheWrap:
With Rice out of the picture, Chapek is now surrounded by lieutenants that he elevated, including head of media and entertainment Kareem Daniel. But he’s also leaving himself with fewer and fewer people to point the finger at if the company’s share price doesn’t get a necessary jolt of life, one senior industry executive familiar with the company noted, adding that Chapek’s possible underestimation of Walden may cost him in the long run.
“Dana is much smarter than Bob Chapek,” the insider bluntly told TheWrap…
“Honestly, it’s shocking because Rice was such an important figure who was really present,” a second Disney insider told TheWrap. “But Dana is also a badass and I’m rooting for her.”
Now Walden, who began her career in public relations, assumes one of the top perches in all of Hollywood. “She won’t be perceived as a CEO candidate immediately, but she is also very capable of the new role she’s stepping into,” a former Hulu staffer told TheWrap. “She has the same level of experience of running a [profit and loss statements] that [Rice] has. She’s a fighter to get to where she is from a publicity exec.”
While Disney did not comment on the article from TheWrap, the Board of Directors released a statement not long after Rice’s firing, saying that they had complete “confidence” in the way Chapek was running the company and the decisions he was making. Chapek’s contract is up in February and has yet to be renewed, but it is being reported that the renewal will most likely take place later this month or in September, when the Board has its next meeting.
When Rice was terminated, Disney did not release a comment saying anything positive about him, which was unusual. However, Walden quickly came out and said that Rice was wonderful to work with, and she enjoyed the time they spent together working at both Fox and Disney. Rice also released a statement, calling working at Disney “a privilege”.