Disney chairman resigns after John Carter flop

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By Nicholas Lee

Last Friday, Disney’s Chairman Rich Ross resigned from the company after more than 2 years in response to the disappointing box office sales of the company’s latest studio production John Carter. His decision to resign reflected on his inexperience as a studio executive. While he had a vast amount of experience as a network executive at Nickelodeon, FX and eventually at Disney, he had little bearing on what the future of the company should be when he took on the role as chairman.

However, analysts overestimated the loss John Carter would incur at $200 million. However, this was not the case. At present day, the film has made $270 million worth of ticket sales. Disney has issued a report, announcing that the film would cause a studio-wide loss of $80 to $120 million.

While Ross’ resignation may come off as an overreaction to the disappointment caused by the creative failure of studio affiliates, rather than the guidance of executive management, the former chairman felt that he was unable to give the company the drive it needed to compete with the studios that produced box office successes like Avatar and The Hunger Games. In fact, studios such as Marvel Entertainment now shadow Disney because it has been unable to rebrand itself as a studio that can deliver fun live-action movies past the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Ross has witnessed box office bombs from franchise-hopeful Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Winnie the Pooh and Prom.

In a memo to his staff upon the day of his resignation, Ross said, “The best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”

Despite his modesty, Ross was fairly effective in getting rid of rerun studio ideas, hoping that Disney would become a place where innovation would propel itself to extend the company’s life cycle into a new age of growth. He slashed production ideas for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Wild Hogs 2. Disney’s stock price, while having fluctuated mildly since 2009, had increased more than two-fold at more than $42 per share since Ross had taken the chairman position.

As Disney looks for a new chairman, it needs one that can modernize both its film studio, while also maintaining its brand image as a classic franchise. It can accomplish this by continuing successful management of its network, resorts and theme parks, while also reinvigorating its studios to create innovative films that cater to its younger generations.

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