Just last week, Disney shocked the entertainment industry when it was announced that executive Peter Rice had been fired from his role as Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content and was being replaced by Dana Walden. Walden had worked with Rice when they were both executives at 21st Century Fox and continued to do so when Fox was purchased by Disney in 2019. Many saw the move to fire Rice as a poor one, as he was considered incredibly good at his job, on top of being really well-liked by Disney employees.
However, according to one Disney insider, Rice was not as beloved by Disney executives as he was by other employees. The source spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity and said that Rice was “difficult to work with.” According to Business Insider:
“He was difficult to work with, ever since day one,” said a high-level Disney insider, underscoring the cultural issues that came with acquiring Fox. “It’s not an us-and-them” at Disney, the source continued. “You have to work together.” This person added that Rice was also suspected of leaking negative news about Disney to the media. A person close to Rice denied this suggestion.
Rice closely guarded details of talent compensation deals from senior executives at the company, the insider said. “He said all the right things, but actions mean more.” Former CEO Bob Iger had said he would rid Disney of Rice, this person added, but ultimately left him in place.
Others said that they weren’t sure what Rice actually did in the company. Not long after Chapek became CEO, he restructured the company, which significantly decreased Rice’s power and standing within Disney. Per Business Insider:
“What Peter was really good at was that intersection of the creative and the business,” this person said. “After the reorganization, I was wondering, ‘What is Peter’s job?’, because they took the money away from him and he’s got all these big people reporting to him but they’re the ones doing all the work.”
Several other sources also spoke to Business Insider and said that, while Hollywood loved Rice, Disney CEO Bob Chapek did not. It had been reported that Rice was interested in becoming Disney’s next CEO, which was a definite possibility considering Chapek has been struggling to get Disney fans behind him since he took over as CEO in 2020.
One former Disney executive questioned why Chapek hadn’t removed Rice sooner. “What took him so long!” this person said. “Peter spent all of his time bad-mouthing Bob Chapek to the press and setting himself up as an heir apparent. And what in the heck did he do at Disney anyway?”
But a second former Disney executive questioned the process and the notion that Rice wasn’t a fit. “When you’re talking about culture,” this person said, “it’s not very Disney to fire a chairman in a hastily arranged seven-minute meeting.”
While Rice’s firing was certainly a confusing and controversial one, Disney’s Board of Executives stands behind Chapek’s decision. In a move that has not been done since Chapek became CEO, Disney’s Chairwoman of the Board released a statement saying that the Board had complete confidence in Chapek and the direction he was taking the company in.
It is also being reported that the Board is so supportive of Chapek that The Walt Disney Co.is planning on renewing his contract during one of their meetings later this month or in September.