Disney Names New Lion King

As expected the Walt Disney Company (DIS) today named Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, as chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. Ross, a key creative executive who ushered in such Disney Channel hits as High Schoool Musical, replaces long-time studio chief Dick Cook. Cook was forced out by Disney CEO Robert Iger two weeks back, in part because the studio’s earnings had tanked in recent quarters.

As head of the studio, Ross gets a huge expanse of the film unit’s activities, including its worldwide and distribution efforts, its marketing and its stage show and musical units. That puts the company’s live-action and feature animated film labels under him despite some undercurrent in recent days that Disney’s highly profitable Pixar operations might report directly to Iger.

A thirteen year Disney veteran, Ross joined the company in 1996 from Fox (NWS), where he helped launch its FX network. Before that he worked at Nickelodoen (VIA). At Disney he’s had a meteroric rise, moving from the Disney Channels’ senior vice-president of programming in 1996 to the channel’s president in 2004. “Rich has an outstanding record of creating high-quality family entertainment that delights audiences around the world,” said Iger.

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