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Kareem Daniel to Exit Disney as Bob Iger Returns

The head of Disney's DMED division was one of former CEO Bob Chapek's top lieutenants.

Kareem Daniel

Kareem Daniel

Getty Images

Kareem Daniel, chairperson of Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution (DMED) group and former CEO Bob Chapek’s top lieutenant, is exiting his role. New CEO Bob Iger informed the DMED staff followed by the whole staff of the decision on Monday, IndieWire has confirmed.

It’s Iger’s first step in unraveling the structure put in place by his predecessor, and Daniel’s exit will “necessitate a reorganization” of the DMED division that Daniel led. The move was expected by many analysts following the surprise news Sunday of Chapek’s ouster and Iger returning as CEO. But the move will shift the company away from being organized around its streaming division and will put some of the power of how content is released and distributed back into the hands of the creatives who are behind it.

“It is my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are. As you know, this is a time of enormous change and challenges in our industry, and our work will also focus on creating a more efficient and cost-effective structure,” Iger said in the note.

He also will task other remaining top lieutenants, including Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy, to help in determining a new structure that will make sense for Disney moving forward. Iger added that he hopes to have a new structure in place in a matter of months.

“Without question, elements of DMED will remain, but I fundamentally believe that storytelling is what fuels this company, and it belongs at the center of how we organize our businesses,” he added.

Chapek’s reorg of Disney was one of his first steps upon taking over as CEO back in 2020, tapping his longtime No. 2 in Daniel to lead the DMED division that now has a tremendous amount of oversight, including for ad sales for Disney content and Disney+, distribution, operations and tech.

Analysts at Moffet Nathanson on Monday, though, said that move “hurt the morale of the creative leadership” and “slowed decision-making,” and DMED shouldered much of the blame for the $1.5 billion in losses reported by Disney+ in the most recent earnings report. In 2021 at a company retreat, Iger even tacitly warned of giving too much weight to data rather than creative decision-making.

Daniel was a veteran of Disney dating back to 2006, and in his time with the company had roles at divisions such as Consumer Products, Games and Publishing; Walt Disney Imagineering; the Walt Disney Studios; and Corporate Strategy. Despite the losses at Disney+ and Chapek’s hope that the streamer would become profitable by 2024, Daniel did help manage to grow Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ to 235 million combined global subscribers.

Read the full contents of Iger’s note below.

Dear DMED Employees

As we embark on the transformative work that I mentioned to you in my email last night, I want to begin by offering my sincere appreciation and gratitude to each and every one of you.

Over the coming weeks, we will begin implementing organizational and operating changes within the company. It is my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are. As you know, this is a time of enormous change and challenges in our industry, and our work will also focus on creating a more efficient and cost-effective structure.

I’ve asked Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy to work together on the design of a new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs, and this will necessitate a reorganization of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. As a result, Kareem Daniel will be leaving the company, and I hope you will all join me in thanking him for his many years of service to Disney.

Our goal is to have the new structure in place in the coming months. Without question, elements of DMED will remain, but I fundamentally believe that storytelling is what fuels this company, and it belongs at the center of how we organize our businesses.

This is a moment of great change and opportunity for our company as we begin our second century, and I am so proud to be leading this team again. I can’t say it enough: I’m incredibly grateful for the tremendous work you do each day, and for your commitment to maintaining the level of excellence Disney has always been known for.

I know change can be unsettling, but it is also necessary and even energizing, and so I ask for your patience as we develop a roadmap for this restructuring. More information will be shared over the coming weeks. Until a new structure is put in place, we will continue to operate under our existing structure. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and thank you again for all you do.

Bob

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