Two days after completing its landmark acquisition of the legendary Fox studio, Walt Disney Co. began laying off senior-level executives in an effort to wring savings from the $71.3 billion deal, it was reported Friday.
The initial cuts Thursday affected about two dozen people, most of whom are high-level executives at the 20th Century Fox lot in Century City, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment. Termination notices and severance packages started going out Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Among those who are losing their jobs is Chris Aronson, Fox’s pesident of domestic theatrical distribution who joined the studio in 2005. Others who are leaving the film studio include marketing President Pam Levine, international distribution head Andrew Cripps and domestic publicity head Heather Phillips. Marketing co-president Kevin Campbell, product strategy head Mike Dunn, chief content officer Tony Sella and 20th Television President Greg Meidel are departing as well, according to The Times.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the domestic distribution team, which I consider to be the gold standard in the business,” Aronson said in a statement. “While I am disappointed not to continue, I look forward to starting a new chapter in this business during this exciting time of change.”
As part of the integration, Disney will close down the Fox 2000 label run by Elizabeth Gabler. The unit is best known for producing book adaptations, including “The Hate U Give,” “Hidden Figures” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” The move is a surprise because Disney had previously indicated that Gabler would continue to run Fox 2000 under Disney ownership, The Times reported. Although the studio plans to complete the productions that are underway, it will not take on any new projects, people close to the situation told the newspaper.
More than 3,000 people, mostly at Fox, are expected to lose their jobs as Disney determines how it will integrate the companies, according to people familiar with the situation. Many of those jobs are in Los Angeles. Some of those cuts were expected to come this week, but the bulk will probably occur over the next weeks and months, according to The Times.
Deep cuts were widely expected at departments including distribution, home video and marketing, areas where Disney and Fox have considerable overlap. Although some Fox executives are joining Disney, several others won’t be, including 20th Century Fox Film Chairman Stacey Snider. She is considered a candidate to replace Kevin Tsujihara, the former Warner Bros. boss who resigned this week.
Disney has not disclosed a target number for job cuts. However, the company has said that it expects “at least $2 billion in cost synergies by 2021 from operating efficiencies realized through the combination of businesses,” most of which will come through workforce reductions.
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