Disney Names Ex-Warner Executive Horn to Lead Studio After Flop

Walt Disney Co. named former Warner Bros. Entertainment President Alan Horn as chairman of its film operation, replacing Rich Ross, who stepped down in April after the studio’s “John Carter” picture bombed with audiences.

Horn, 69, who oversaw the “Harry Potter” and “Dark Knight” pictures at Warner, will run production, distribution and marketing of Disney films, as well as those from the company’s Pixar and Marvel divisions, Burbank, California-based Disney said yesterday in a statement. He starts on June 11.

Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger has placed a high priority on the studio, which lost $84 million last quarter because of “John Carter.” The studio is benefiting this month from “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which has posted $1.31 billion in worldwide sales and lifted Disney to first in U.S. theater revenue at $742.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Warner Bros., part of Time Warner Inc., is fifth with $524.1 million.

“Our results on the live-action front have been inconsistent this year in particular and the goal is to find a management team that is capable of creating higher-quality films under the Disney live-action banner on a more consistent basis,” Iger said on May 30 at a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. investor conference.

Horn was eased out of his job into a consulting position at Warner Bros. in 2011. Since then his role as president has been shared by an “office of the president” comprised of Jeff Robinov, head of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group; Bruce Rosenblum, the TV group’s president, and Kevin Tsujihara, who runs the home entertainment unit.

New Responsibilities

At Disney, Horn’s responsibilities will include overseeing the company’s three motion-picture groups. Disney also distributes films from Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios.

“The job at Disney is going to be more about managing the needs of strong and talented personalities,” said Tony Wible, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia who has a neutral rating on the stock. “He needs to manage those legs of the stool.”

Horn, who has also worked at Twentieth Century Fox, becomes Disney’s third studio chairman in 2 1/2 years, following Ross and Dick Cook, who left in September 2009. His consulting duties at Warner Bros., which is also located in Burbank, were scheduled to run through 2013, according to a September 2010 Time Warner statement.

“He’s been a part of some of the most popular films produced in the last decade, and we’re very happy for him,” Barry Meyer, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “All of his colleagues at Warner Bros. wish him the best.”

Business Breakdown

In the fiscal year ended in October, filmed entertainment was Disney’s third-biggest revenue source, accounting for $6.35 billion, or 16 percent, of the company’s $40.9 billion in total sales. The studio posted a $618 million operating profit.

Television, including broadcast and cable networks, was first with $18.7 billion, or 46 percent, followed by parks and resorts at $11.8 billion, or 29 percent.

“John Carter,” an effects-laden, science-fiction adventure film made for $250 million, collected just $282.2 million in global ticket sales, which are split between theaters and the studio. Disney said on March 19 the film would have a $200 million operating loss.

Time Warner’s filmed entertainment division had an $1.26 billion profit on 2011 revenue of $12.6 billion, according to company reports.

Disney rose 1.1 percent to $45.71 yesterday in New York trading. The stock has gained 22 percent this year. Time Warner, based in New York, fell 0.1 percent to $34.47.