Rich Ross resigns as chairman of Walt Disney Studios
Ross' departure, which was largely expected throughout Hollywood, follows a period of management upheaval at the Burbank-based studio and a pair of two high-profile box office flops: last year's "Mars Needs Moms" and the Martian adventure film "John Carter," for which Disney acknowledged it expected to take a $200-million loss -- one of the largest in movie history.
Ross, who had built the Disney Channel into a global powerhouse, was promoted in October 2009 as successor to studio veteran Dick Cook. Despite achieving success with Disney Channel shows such as "High School Musical," Ross lacked experience in the movie business.
Many inside and outside Disney were skeptical at the time that a TV executive with limited film experience could transition successfully to running a large movie studio.
In an effort to improve the studio's performance, Ross restructured operations and ousted several experienced division heads and hired a movie outsider, MT Carney, as head of marketing. Carney was pushed out in January after less than two years on the job.
Ross sent an email to his colleagues Friday morning, saying, "I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today."
In a statement, Disney Chairman Bob Iger touted Ross' contributions to the company. "His vision and leadership opened doors for Disney around the world, making our brand part of daily life for millions of people."
No replacement was named.
-- Richard Verrier and Dawn Chmielewski
Photo: Rich Ross arrives at Walt Disney Studios on the premiere of "The Princess and the Frog" in November 2009. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times