On June 9, The Walt Disney Company dropped a major bombshell when it was announced that Peter Rice — Chairman of Disney’s Entertainment and Programming — had been fired. Prior to his role at Disney, Rice had been an executive at 21st Century FOX, which was purchased by The Walt Disney Company in 2019. According to sources close to Rice, he was completely blindsided by the decision, which was made by Disney CEO Bob Chapek. The source said that Rice was not given a real reason for his firing and was told by Chapek that the decision was not personal.
Rumors had been swirling that Rice was in line to possibly take over Chapek’s position as CEO when Chapek’s contract ran out, something that will happen in 9 months. There were also reports that Rice was “angling” for the role, and his desire to be CEO of Disney was not a secret. Some feel that Chapek fired Rice as a way to get rid of someone he considered competition.
However, it does not look like Disney’s Board of Directors feels that same way. Susan Arnold, the Chairperson of Disney’s Board of Directors, made the following statement after Rice’s exit was announced:
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. 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.
After Rice’s firing, it was announced that Dana Walden — another former FOX executive — would be taking over the role of Chairperson of Disney Entertainment and Programming. Rice had a contract that was set to expire in 2024 and Disney said that they will continue to pay out that contract until it is up. Before being made Chairperson of Disney Entertainment and Programming, Walden had been the Chairperson of Walt Disney Television.
Since he became CEO in 2020, Bob Chapek has struggled to gain the favor of Disney fans. Tens of thousands of people have called for the CEO’s ouster for years and have even signed a Change.org petition, which has well over 100,000 signatures, to have him fired. Every time Disney fires a higher-up at the Company, many people comment that Chapek needs to be the one to go.
There were rumors that the Board was considering firing Chapek when his contract expires, but with the firing of Peter Rice, it is looking less likely that that will happen.