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Disney replaces Rice, promotes Walden in leadership shakeup

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A screen shows the trading info for The Walt Disney Company company on the floor of the NYSE in New York
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By Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Walt Disney Co Chief Executive Bob Chapek announced a major leadership shift on Thursday, promoting Dana Walden to chairman of general entertainment content as the company works to build its streaming television efforts.

Walden replaces veteran Hollywood executive Peter Rice, who is leaving Disney. Both executives joined Disney in 2019 when the company acquired entertainment assets from 21st Century Fox.

Sources who spoke with Reuters said Rice, who is well-regarded throughout Hollywood, clashed with Disney's senior leadership. His departure was, according to one, "a long time coming." A source close to Disney said Rice was deemed not a right fit for the company's culture.

Rice did not respond to requests for comment.

The change was announced as Disney and other media companies battle to attract audiences with must-see hits for their streaming TV platforms such as Disney+.

In a statement, Chapek said Walden had a "well-earned reputation for championing creative talent and developing programming that captures the cultural zeitgeist."

Walden had been serving as entertainment chair for Walt Disney Television. Her new role expands her oversight to include a broad range of programming for Disney's streaming outlets and cable and broadcast networks.

Under her leadership, the company had such hits as ABC's "Abbott Elementary," the Hulu Original series "Only Murders in the Building" and the Onyx Collective's Academy Award-winning documentary "Summer of Soul."

At Fox, Walden served as chairman and chief executive of the Fox Television Group when the company's studio produced hits such as "This Is Us," "Empire," "Modern Family" and "Glee."

Rice had served as president of 21st Century Fox and his exit from Disney appeared abrupt.

Last month, he appeared on stage at Disney’s presentation to advertisers gathered at Pier 36 in New York, touting the company’s "unprecedented investment" in new talent and shows.

"He’s an excellent executive," said one industry insider. "He’s very smart, very polished and very well-thought-of in the community."

Two sources said Rice’s role at Disney had been diminished by a 2020 reorganization shortly after Chapek became CEO.

On Thursday, Disney board Chair Susan Arnold issued a statement of support for Chapek, who had been under fire from employees and Florida politicians over the company's stance on a bill that would limit discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.

"Bob (Chapek) and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the board," Arnold said.

(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in in Los Angeles, Helen Coster in New York and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Bill Berkrot and Matthew Lewis)

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