Peter Rice, then chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group Inc., speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on May 3, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — Disney abruptly fired Peter Rice, its top TV content executive, multiple sources told CNBC on Thursday.
Rice didn’t know the shooting was coming, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
It was not immediately clear what led to Rice’s sudden departure from the company.
Rice clashed with Disney executives, including former Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer, over organizational powers, such as who controlled the ability to greenlight shows. While generally liked personally, he angered some Disney co-workers for hogging information rather than sharing it with co-workers — a style that may have worked at Fox but didn’t sit well with Disney, according to a person familiar with. the subject.
Still, Rice supported Chapek’s organizational changes, which gave him back the power to have direct conversations with Hollywood talent about whether or not Disney would choose their jobs, another person said.
A source told CNBC that Rice was considered a possible candidate to succeed CEO Bob Chapek as Disney’s chief executive. Rice is well-liked and respected in Hollywood, and his ousting is “unheard of” and “significant,” the source said.
His contract was renewed in August 2021 and is expected to run through 2024. Rice received an undisclosed payment, a source familiar with the matter said.
Rice has over three decades of experience in the entertainment industry and worked her way up through the ranks of 21st Century Fox. When the company’s sale to Disney was finalized in 2019, Rice joined the Disney team. Dana Walden, who also transitioned from Fox to Disney, will take over.
Disney has confirmed Walden’s elevation, effective immediately. Rice did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The layoff comes as Disney works aggressively to expand its streaming audience. Rice has overseen 20th Television, ABC Entertainment, ABC News and FX, among other brands.
The Disney board has expressed support for Chapek, who broke the news to Rice earlier this week.
“The strength of The Walt Disney Company’s business as it emerges from the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the future of the company,” Susan Arnold, chairman of Disney’s board of directors, said in a statement. communicated. “At this important time of growth and business transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the path to success it is on today, and Bob and his management team have the support and confidence of the board of directors.”
— CNBC’s Julia Boorstin contributed to this report.