Disney fires Peter Rice, its top TV content executive

The Walt Disney Company abruptly fired Peter Rice, its senior television content executive, citing an inadequate fit to Disney’s corporate culture, according to three people briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

Mr. Rice, president of Disney General Entertainment Content, a division of the company that makes more than 300 shows a year for platforms such as ABC, Disney Channel, Disney +, Hulu and FX, has been ousted by Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney, in a brief meeting on Wednesday, according to these folks. Mr. Rice, who also watched ABC News, recently renewed his contract at Disney in August. It lasted until the end of 2024. Disney will pay for it, people said.

Disney is expected to announce Thursday that Mr. Rice will be replaced by his senior lieutenant, Dana Waldenwho was president of entertainment for Walt Disney Television.

Mr. Rice declined to comment. Ms Walden could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Rice’s ouster will set off like a sound boom in Hollywood, where he is widely admired. Many people in the entertainment world, at least outside of Disney, have even seen him as a possible candidate to succeed Chapek as Disney CEO. Mr. Chapek’s decision will surely generate questions about whether the chatter has gotten a little too loud; Mr. Chapek has had a rough few months, with Disney becoming a political punching bagin particular for gov. Ron De Santis of Florida. Disney’s share price also fell sharply due to industry concerns about the profitability of streaming services.

In April, Chapek fired the company’s top communications and government relations executive; The executive Geoff Morrellhe only joined Disney in January.

Susan E. Arnold, chairman of Disney’s board of directors, said in an e-mailed statement that Mr. Chapek had the backing of the board.

“The strength of the Walt Disney Company’s operations as it emerges from the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the future of the company,” he said. “In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the path of success it has taken today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and trust of the Board.”

Mr. Rice began his entertainment career in 1987 when he was a summer intern at 20th Century Fox. Over the next three decades, he would become close to that company’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, and eventually become president of 21st Century Fox. Mr. Murdoch sold most of 21st Century Fox to Disney in 2017 in a deal worth approximately $ 52 billion. Mr. Rice and Ms. Walden both joined Disney as part of the acquisition.