Zenia Mucha, Disneys Powerful and Feared Brand Chief, Is Stepping Down – The New York Times

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He added: “She is unrivaled in times of crisis, certainly. However, when we had good news to announce, she was wonderfully strategic on that, too.”

Ms. Mucha declined an interview request and tried to persuade a reporter not to write this article at all, arguing that her departure was not significant news. She was undoubtedly mindful of the fact that a story would add to a ticklish narrative: A notable number of important Disney executives are following Mr. Iger out the door.

They include Alan N. Braverman, Disney’s top lawyer, who also announced his retirement on Tuesday; Mr. Braverman, 74, has been general counsel since 2003. The leaders of Disney’s art-film division decamped last month. So did Disney’s human resources chief.

In an internal email of their own on Tuesday, Mr. Chapek and Mr. Iger jointly praised Mr. Braverman and Ms. Mucha for playing a “pivotal role” in the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and certain 21st Century Fox assets. They also cited the opening of Disney’s first theme park on the Chinese mainland. Rather miraculously, the Shanghai Disney Resort debuted in 2016 without a hitch — though it coincided with a tragedy in Florida, when a toddler at Walt Disney World was dragged into the water by an alligator and drowned, requiring Ms. Mucha to work around the clock to manage two major stories on two sides of the world.

As Disney has grown into the world’s largest entertainment company, with 203,000 employees, 14 theme parks (combined annual attendance: 156 million), four cruise ships, six movie studios and a dozen major TV networks, Ms. Mucha’s ability to control leaks of internal information has lessened. The rise of social media has been a boon, allowing Disney to directly communicate with hundreds of millions of followers, but it has also made it harder for her to wield access as a cudgel.

In 2017, Ms. Mucha barred The Los Angeles Times from press screenings of Disney movies after an investigation by the newspaper into the media giant’s business dealings in Anaheim, Calif. The move prompted swift blowback on Twitter, however, and Disney reversed itself. (Disney cited “productive conversations” with the newspaper’s leaders as its reason for restoring access.)

But Ms. Mucha continues to exert absolute control over one thing: whether Mr. Iger should ever be photographed wearing Mickey Mouse ears, an image that she fears media outlets could use to make him look silly.

“Over my dead body,” she once told a reporter.

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