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Disney Fires TV Content Head Peter Rice, Once Floated as Bob Chapek’s Successor

Dana Walden, chairwoman for entertainment at Walt Disney Television, will replace him.

EXCLUSIVE - FOX's Peter Rice accepts the Hall of Fame Cornerstone Award at the Television Academy’s 70th Anniversary Gala and Opening Celebration for its new Saban Media Center on June 2, 2016, in the NoHo Arts District in Los Angeles. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Peter Rice

Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

The Walt Disney Company has fired Peter Rice, chairman of General Entertainment Content, and the company’s most senior TV executive. Dana Walden, Chairman of Entertainment for Walt Disney Television, has been tapped to succeed him, the company said in a statement.

Rice recently renewed his contract at Disney back in August, and it was set to run through the end of 2024. He is set to receive a payout from Disney amid termination. He and Walden came to Disney through the company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2017.

Until today, Rice oversaw an arm of the company that produces more than 300 shows annually and for platforms including ABC, Disney Channel, Disney+, Hulu, and FX. According to the Times, Disney CEO Bob Chapek terminated Rice during a short meeting on Wednesday. Variety added the decision was all business, not at all related to personality or behavior.

Rice was once thought to be a successor for Chapek, here making his most high-profile executive shake-up yet. Chapek has weathered a challenging 2022 so far for the company, skirmishing with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over Disney’s stance on the Don’t Say Gay bill.

In a statement, Chapek said, “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. Her well-earned reputation for championing creative talent and developing programming that truly captures the cultural zeitgeist has resulted in hit after hit, from ABC’s ‘Abbott Elementary’ and Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning ‘Summer of Soul,’ to Hulu Originals like ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ ‘Dopesick,’ ‘The Dropout,’ and ‘The Kardashians.’ She and Peter have worked closely together for years to create the best programming in the industry, and I can think of no one better than Dana to lead Disney General Entertainment to even greater heights.”

“It is an incredible honor to be asked to lead this amazingly talented team—they are truly the absolute best in every respect—and I am grateful to Bob for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walden said. “Disney General Entertainment’s culture of creative excellence and originality has made us home to many of the most talented creators in the business. I am humbled to lead this team, and I am confident that together, we will continue to build on the foundation of culture-defining entertainment we have achieved so far.”

Susan E. Arnold, chairwoman of the company’s board, shared a statement with The New York Times indicating that the board backed Chapek in the decision.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Rice started off his career at 20th Century Fox in 1987, eventually rising to become president of 21st Century Fox. Amid the acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2017, both Rice and Walden joined Disney.

Rice was close to Rupert Murdoch after working at the company for 30 years. After moving to Disney, he headed up ABC News.

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