Disney Executive Geoff Morrell is out in less than four months

Disney parted ways with its most senior communications and government chief on Friday after a two-month tumultuous period in which Disney became a political sack, especially for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Geoff Morrell, who came to Disney in January as chief corporate affairs officer, will leave his job immediately, the company said.

Mr. Morrell had been candid about a need to “modernize” Disney’s approach to communication, even though his predecessor, Zenia Mucha, operated what was widely considered a best-in-class operation. Most of his time at Disney, however, was occupied by a PR nightmare that began in early March when Disney refused to take a public stand on Florida school laws that, among other things, restrict classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. The company is the state’s largest private employer.

With Disney employees openly revolting over the company’s public silence, Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, then aggressively condemned the bill – only to find himself in the crosshairs of Fox News hosts and Mr. DeSantis.

Last week, Mr. DeSantis and other Republican lawmakers in Florida passed a 1967 law that allowed Walt Disney World to act as its own quasi-government.

“Fortunately, the strength and experience of our existing management team – including relatively new all-star hires – means there is no shortage of talent to guide our reputation-driving functions,” said Mr. Chapek in an email to senior Disney executives Friday. concerning Mr Morrell’s resignation.

Mr. Morrell previously held a similar job at BP, the fossil fuel giant, and served as Pentagon’s press secretary during the Iraq war. “After three months in this new role, it has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right thing to do,” said Mr. Morrell in a note to his Disney staff. “I have decided to leave the company to pursue other options.” He declined to comment further.

Mr. Morrell’s position at Disney was new. It combined several global functions – communications, public policy, government relations, corporate social responsibility and environmental issues – that had been shared between Disney departments. Mr. Chapek said in his email that he would not replace Mr. Morrell, but rather return to the old structure. Most notably, Kristina Schake will be Disney’s top communications chief. She was hired this month by Mr. Morrell and will now report directly to Mr. Chapek. Ms. Schake’s CV includes leadership positions on Instagram and on Democratic political campaigns and service in the Obama and Biden administrations.

“Kristina has a strategic approach and collaborative style, as well as relentless optimism and a strong appreciation for our brand and its place in the world,” said Mr. Chapek. “These qualities will be invaluable as she works to protect and enhance our reputation.”

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