The Walt Disney chief’s top lieutenant resigns after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” controversy

Geoff Morrell, hired by Walt Disney this year to lead its communications and government teams, is leaving the company after his controversial battle with the Florida governor over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Morrell, who had previously run communications at BP and the U.S. Department of Defense, was one of the most high-profile external executives picked up by Disney CEO Bob Chapek when he tried to make his mark on the company after his predecessor Bob retired. Iger.

Morrell’s short tenure was marked by the company’s chaotic response to legislation advocated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which restricted the teaching of LGBTQ issues in public elementary schools. Many Disney employees criticized Chapek for not issuing a public statement condemning the bill, which was passed last month.

A few days after writing in a note that he would not publicly condemn the legislation, Chapek turned the course. The U-turn landed Disney in the crosshairs of DeSantis, who has taken up cultural controversy as he seeks re-election this year. Last week, the governor signed a bill to revoke the entertainment group’s decades-old ability to control the Walt Disney World theme park, a move widely seen as retaliation for the company’s criticism of his LGBTQ policies.

Morrell’s task was intended to be broader than that of his predecessor, Zenia Mucha, the communications veteran known for his bare approach to public relations.

Morrell’s double roles are now being split into two jobs. Kristina Schake, who has held roles in the Biden and Obama administrations and was also deputy communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, will run communications for the company. In a staff note, Chapek praised her “strategic approach and collaborative style”.

Horacio Gutierrez, Disney’s general counsel, will lead government relations.

In a brief note seen by FT, Morrell said: “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. After talking about this with Bob, I have decided to leave the company to pursue other options. ”

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