Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, is out of the job after two-and-a-half years — and after presiding over one of the biggest flops of all time.
Somebody had to pay for the terrible failure of John Carter, and clearly it was Ross.
On Friday, Ross issued a statement announcing his departure.
In it, he said, “I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.”
Disney is about to release what promises to be one of the biggest movies of the year — or even the decade. The Avengers is looking at a $150 million opening weekend. But even that movie, with a cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson, can’t make up for the monumental flop called John Carter.
The costly big-screen adaptation of John Carter lost the company $200 million.
Ross reined in some of the studio’s costs, and famously halted production on The Lone Ranger. That’s especially noteworthy because the movie involves Disney’s most important star, Johnny Depp, one of its most important directors, Gore Verbinski, and one of its most important producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, all of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
That movie is back in production, but its budget has been reduced.
Meanwhile, the studio is aswirl with questions about Ross’s successor and with speculation about studio Production President Sean Bailey.
Ross was a TV guy before becoming chairman of Walt Disney Studios. He joined Disney as senior vice president, programming and production, for Disney Channel in 1996, became general manager and executive vice president, programming and production, in 1999, president of Disney Channels in 2002 and president of Disney Channels Worldwide in 2004.