Rich Ross has resigned as head of Disney Studios, just weeks away from what is expected to be the biggest hit of his tenure.
Disney CEO Bob Iger appointed Ross the head of Disney Studios in 2009 after he spent a long and successful run topping the company’s cable channels.
In his resignation letter, Ross wrote, “For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.”
He continues, “I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, 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. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Ross took much of the blame in the press for the box office disaster that was “John Carter,” although the movie was greenlit and began production before he took over the studio. Pundits referenced Ross’ lack of experience managing big-budget movies, as well as the decision to hire a head of production and marketing head from outside of the film world. This also reportedly led to conflicts regarding the budget of Gore Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger,” though Ross was painted as the voice of reason in those negotiations.
In another statement, Bob Iger says, “For more than a decade, Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching franchises that generate value across our entire company. His vision and leadership opened doors for Disney around the world, making our brand part of daily life for millions of people. I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney, and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next.”
Ross’ departure comes just weeks before the premiere of “The Avengers,” which is tracking as a major blockbuster for Disney.
In his time at Disney Channels Worldwide, Ross is credited with the tremendous growth of the Disney cable brand, with major hits including “Hannah Montana,” “Wizards of Waverly Place” and the blockbuster “High School Musical” franchise. Prior to joining Disney, Ross was part of the executive team that launched the FX network and spent seven years at Nickelodeon, helping to develop the Kids’ Choice Awards.