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Disney to Begin Layoffs and Targeted Hiring Freeze, Bob Chapek Says

The CEO also revealed a "rigorous review" of the company's content and marketing spending and will limit employee travel.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Disney CEO Bob Chapek

Disney

Disney is planning layoffs and a targeted hiring freeze as part of “cost management efforts” to begin its fiscal 2023, Disney CEO Bob Chapek informed the company’s leadership in a memo Friday.

Chapek said in the memo as obtained by IndieWire that he believed there is room to make the organization “more nimble” and have “improved efficiency,” which they expect would lead to “some staff reductions,” though he did not disclose how many layoffs would be coming or in which departments. As for the targeted hiring freeze, Chapek said in the memo that only “hiring for the small subset of the most critical, business-driving positions will continue, but all other roles are on hold.”

Chapek further announced that the company will be limiting employee travel to essential trips and will begin a “rigorous review” of the company’s content and marketing spending. As part of the review, the CEO will lead a cost structure task force alongside CFO Christine McCarthy and general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.

“While certain macroeconomic factors are out of our control, meeting these goals requires all of us to continue doing our part to manage the things we can control — most notably, our costs. You all will have critical roles to play in this effort, and as senior leaders, I know you will get it done,” Chapek wrote in the memo Friday. “To be clear, I am confident in our ability to reach the targets we have set, and in this management team to get us there.”

The changes come after Disney in its earnings call Tuesday revealed operating losses in its direct-to-consumer (DTC) segment, which includes Disney+, of $1.5 billion, despite beating market expectations by adding 12.1 million subscribers to the streaming service, and Chapek on Friday reiterated his goal stated in the earnings call of making Disney+ profitable by fiscal 2024. Stock in Disney this week fell 7%, its lowest in two years.

“I am fully aware this will be a difficult process for many of you and your teams. We are going to have to make tough and uncomfortable decisions,” Chapek said to conclude his memo. “But that is just what leadership requires, and I thank you in advance for stepping up during this important time. Our company has weathered many challenges during our 100-year history, and I have no doubt we will achieve our goals and create a more nimble company better suited to the environment of tomorrow.”

Read the full memo below:

Disney Leaders – 

As we begin fiscal 2023, I want to communicate with you directly about the cost management efforts Christine McCarthy and I referenced on this week’s earnings call. These efforts will help us to both achieve the important goal of reaching profitability for Disney+ in fiscal 2024 and make us a more efficient and nimble company overall. This work is occurring against a backdrop of economic uncertainty that all companies and our industry are contending with.

While certain macroeconomic factors are out of our control, meeting these goals requires all of us to continue doing our part to manage the things we can control—most notably, our costs. You all will have critical roles to play in this effort, and as senior leaders, I know you will get it done.

To be clear, I am confident in our ability to reach the targets we have set, and in this management team to get us there.

To help guide us on this journey, I have established a cost structure taskforce of executive officers: our CFO, Christine McCarthy and General Counsel, Horacio Gutierrez. Along with me, this team will make the critical big picture decisions necessary to achieve our objectives.

We are not starting this work from scratch and have already set several next steps—which I wanted you to hear about directly from me.

First, we have undertaken a rigorous review of the company’s content and marketing spending working with our content leaders and their teams. While we will not sacrifice quality or the strength of our unrivaled synergy machine, we must ensure our investments are both efficient and come with tangible benefits to both audiences and the company.

Second, we are limiting headcount additions through a targeted hiring freeze. Hiring for the small subset of the most critical, business-driving positions will continue, but all other roles are on hold. Your segment leaders and HR teams have more specific details on how this will apply to your teams.

Third, we are reviewing our SG&A costs and have determined that there is room for improved efficiency—as well as an opportunity to transform the organization to be more nimble. The taskforce will drive this work in partnership with segment teams to achieve both savings and organizational enhancements. As we work through this evaluation process, we will look at every avenue of operations and labor to find savings, and we do anticipate some staff reductions as part of this review. In the immediate term, business travel should now be limited to essential trips only. In-person work sessions or offsites requiring travel will need advance approval and review from a member of your executive team (i.e., direct report of the segment chairman or corporate executive officer). As much as possible, these meetings should be conducted virtually. Attendance at conferences and other external events will also be restricted and require approvals from a member of your executive team.

Our transformation is designed to ensure we thrive not just today, but well into the future—and you will hear more from our taskforce in the weeks and months ahead.

I am fully aware this will be a difficult process for many of you and your teams. We are going to have to make tough and uncomfortable decisions. But that is just what leadership requires, and I thank you in advance for stepping up during this important time. Our company has weathered many challenges during our 100-year history, and I have no doubt we will achieve our goals and create a more nimble company better suited to the environment of tomorrow.

Thank you again for your leadership.

-Bob 

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