Disney CEO Bob Iger has formally appointed several key 21st Century Fox executives to leadership positions, as Disney closes its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox's entertainment assets.
The appointments, which were long anticipated, amount to a Fox-ification of Disney's television unit. That is a coup for Rupert Murdoch, whose family is now Disney's second-largest shareholder, with many of his top lieutenants transferring to positions of influence at one of Hollywood's most powerful studios.
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Peter Rice, a longtime Fox executive who insiders describe as Murdoch's third son, will now take the top television role at Disney, overseeing assets ranging from ABC to FX to National Geographic. Currently president of 21st Century Fox and chairman and CEO of Fox Networks, Rice will become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. He will replace ABC President Ben Sherwood, who plans to leave the network.
Among the many Fox executives making the jump are Dana Walden, the chairwoman and CEO of Fox Television, who will take the helm at ABC Entertainment and also serve as chairman of Disney Television Studios. John Landgraf, one of Hollywood's most celebrated studio heads, will continue to oversee FX Networks and FX Productions, which Disney will acquire as part of the deal. They will both report to Rice.
“The strength of 21st Century Fox’s first-class management talent has always been a compelling part of this opportunity for us,” Iger said in a statement. “Upon completion of the acquisition, this new structure positions these proven leaders to help drive maximum value from a greatly enhanced portfolio of incredible brands and businesses.”
Internally, there is a widespread expectation that the merger of the two companies will result in redundancies and, eventually, several high-profile departures. Iger announced at least a dozen positions across Disney's television properties on Monday, often with one person serving as "chairman" of a unit and another serving as "president." That structure is seen as a placeholder, and that eventually there won’t be enough chairs for all the chairmen.
Disney acquired the bulk of 21st Century Fox's assets for $71.3 billion after a contentious battle with Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News. The assets Fox could not sell to Disney — Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Sports — are being spun off into a new company known as "New Fox," which will be run by Rupert Murdoch's son, Lachlan Murdoch.
On Monday, that company announced that former White House communications director Hope Hicks would join as an executive vice president.