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Disney’s Rich Ross: The Rise And Fall Of An Entertainment Mogul

He took the reins with the goals of cutting costs and creating sure-fire hits. The projects he bet on cost him his job.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

April 21, 2012 - 7:43 am
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After two and a half years at the helm of of Walt Disney Studios, Chairman Rich Ross, 50, stepped down on Friday. Ross’ departure comes on the heels of the high-profile failure of the sci-fi/fantasy epic John Carter. The $250 million film, which Disney hoped would be the year’s first blockbuster, only earned $269 million worldwide. After distribution and marketing expenses, John Carter‘s dismal take equals a loss of $80-120 million for Disney.

Ross issued a statement attributing his departure to the idea that he wasn’t the right man for the job:

“The best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities,” he said. “I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”

Disney CEO Robert Iger also released a statement praising Ross and wishing him well:

“Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney,” Iger said. “I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney, and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next.”

After stints at Nickelodeon and FX, Rich Ross came to Disney in 1996, where he served as vice president of programming and production, and he rose to president of Disney Channels Worldwide in 2004. As head of Disney Channels Worldwide, Ross was responsible for such brands as Playhouse Disney, Disney XD, Jetix, and Radio Disney.

Ross helped Disney Channel become the kids-and-tweens juggernaut that it is today. He launched the Disney Channel Original Movie franchise, which spawned enormous hits like the High School Musical and Camp Rock series. Radio Disney became a stepping stone for pop music success. Under Ross’ leadership, Disney Channel produced phenomenally successful shows like Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Phineas & Ferb, and Wizards of Waverly Place. Playhouse Disney (now Disney Junior) increased its dominance under Ross as well.

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