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Disney, Fox execs reshuffle ahead of merger

Disney has confirmed the Fox TV execs set to transition into the business after its US$71.3bn acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, while ‘New Fox’ builds up its team for life after the Mouse House acquisition.

The list of 21st Century Fox execs heading to Disney includes its president and chairman Peter Rice, Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf and CEO of National Geographic Partners Gary E.Nell.

Jonnie Davis, Howard Kurtzman and Bert Salke will also join Disney from 20th Century Fox. All of the named execs will carry on in their current Fox duties until the Disney deal is completed in 2019.

Rice has been named chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. He will be leading the TV linear business for the newly combined business. He will work beside Disney’s Kevin Mayer, chairman of direct-to-consumer and international.

Reporting to Bob Iger, Walt Disney’s co-chairman and CEO, Rice will oversee the ABC Network, ABC Studios, the ABC-owned TV Stations Group, Disney Channels, Freeform, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Networks and Productions, Fox 21 Television Studios and National Geographic Channels.

Rice will succeed Ben Sherwood, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television, who is set to depart his role on the completion of the Disney/Fox merger.

‘New Fox’ sets up shop 

Fox has added top government relations and corporate communications execs to its team, after revealing its key leadership team in September.

Hope Hicks, who most recently served as White House communications director and director of strategic communications for president Donald Trump, has been appointed as Fox’s executive vice-president and chief communications officer.

General Electric’s senior government affairs and policy executive, Danny O’Brien, has been named as Fox’s executive vice-president and head of government relations.

Hicks will be based in Los Angeles, O’Brien in Washington, and both will report to Fox’s chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh. Both appointments will take effect once the Disney deal closes and ‘New Fox’ is created.

“Hope and Danny are proven leaders and world-class public affairs professionals. Together they will define and project Fox’s voice to our relevant communities,” said Dinh.

The news comes a week after Lachlan Murdoch, the future chairman and CEO of ‘New Fox’ revealed leadership appointments across distribution, ad sales operations and corporate functions.

Among these appointments, Mike Biard will be upped from president of distribution for Fox Network Group to president of operations and distribution for New Fox; Steve Tomsic, executive VP of finance and deputy CFO at 21st Century Fox, will be New Fox’s CFO; and Pauls Cheesebrough will join the duo as chief technology officer and head of direct-to-consumer platforms.

New Fox will be home to branded properties such as Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports, Fox Televisions Stations Group and sports cable networks FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and Big Ten Network.

Separately, 21st Century Fox agreed to sell its 39% stake in Sky to Comcast late last month after the US pay TV giant emerged triumphant from an intense bidding process. Disney commented at the time that the Sky deal, combined with the divestiture of the Fox Sports Regional Networks, will significantly reduce the amount of debt it will incur in acquiring 21st Century Fox.

(Co-written by Kaltrina Bylykbashi and Andy McDonald)