The Walt Disney Company has abruptly fired Peter Rice, its most senior television content executive, citing an ill fit with Disney’s corporate culture, according to three people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.
Mr. Rice, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, a division of the company that makes more than 300 shows annually for platforms like ABC, Disney Channel, Disney+, Hulu and FX, was ousted by Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, in a brief meeting on Wednesday, according to these people. Mr. Rice, who has also overseen ABC News, most recently renewed his contract at Disney in August. It ran until the end of 2024. Disney will pay him out, the people said.
Disney is expected to announce on Thursday that Mr. Rice will be replaced by his top lieutenant, Dana Walden, who has been chairwoman for entertainment for Walt Disney Television.
The ouster of Mr. Rice will go off like a sonic boom in Hollywood, where he is widely admired. Many people in the entertainment business — outside of Disney, at least — have even seen him as a possible candidate to succeed Mr. Chapek as Disney’s chief executive. Mr. Chapek’s decision is sure to generate questions about whether that chatter got a little too loud; Mr. Chapek has had a difficult few months, with Disney becoming a political punching bag, particularly for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Disney’s stock price has also fallen sharply amid industrywide concerns about the profitability of streaming services.