Disney’s Abrupt Firing of Top TV Exec Just the Latest Drama Stock Doesn’t Need

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Peter Rice joined Disney in 2019.


Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

A top executive at

Walt Disney

is leaving nearly a year after renewing his contract in what might be just the latest headache for the entertainment giant and its stock.

The media giant said Thursday that Dana Walden would succeed Peter Rice as chairman of general entertainment content, effective immediately.

Rice joined Disney (ticker: DIS) in 2019 as part of the 21st Century Fox acquisition. In August, he renewed his contract with Disney through the end of 2024. People familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that Rice was dismissed. Disney didn’t immediately return Barron’s request for comment.

The Journal reported that some saw Rice as a possibility to lead the company. Susan Arnold, chairman of Disney’s board, said in an emailed statement to Barron’s that the board supports CEO Bob Chapek.

“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,” Arnold 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.”

But does he have the support of the stock market? The news of Rice’s firing—and the board response—is just the latest drama to hit Disney stock. Chapek has been scrutinized for his initial response to a Florida bill that would prohibit discussing LGBT topics in classrooms, and then seen the company’s special tax status removed after reversing course. The company’s streaming strategy has also been questioned as Disney stock has fallen 33% in 2022 and 42% over the past year. The stock dropped 3.8% on Wednesday, worse than the


Dow Jones Industrial Average’s

1.9% decline and the


S&P 500’s

2.4% slide.

Walden will now oversee Disney’s original entertainment and news programming for the company’s streaming platforms and its cable and broadcast networks, Disney said in a news release. She previously served as chairman of entertainment for Disney Television and joined Disney during the 21st Century Fox acquisition.

“I can think of no one better than Dana to lead Disney General Entertainment to even greater heights,” Chapek said.

Chapek better hope he’s right.

Write to Angela Palumbo at angela.palumbo@dowjones.com