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Next decision for Disney: how to replace Rich Ross

October 5, 2009 |  5:53 pm

Now that Rich Ross has been bumped up from president of Disney Channels Worldwide to chairman of Walt Disney Studios, attention will soon turn to who will be taking his old job.

No word from Disney yet on whom that will be, but in e-mail to staff, Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney's Media Networks unit, said a replacement for Ross would be named in the next few weeks.

There is, of course, a list of usual suspects within Disney for Ross' job. One name that naturally leaps to mind is Gary Marsh, who is president of entertainment for Disney Channel and the top creative executive beneath Ross. Under his watch, Disney Channel launched "Hannah Montana," "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "That's So Raven." Marsh has been at Disney Channel for 21 years, so he certainly knows all the turf there. However, it remains to be seen if Marsh is interested in giving up his passion for programming to assume all the other, less fun parts that go with the top job, including the politics and number-crunching.

Speaking of number-crunching, there is Jewell Engstrom, chief financial officer and executive vice president of the Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group. Engstrom, who reports to Sweeney, oversees all the financial operations for Disney's cable networks (with the exception of the ESPN unit) domestically and abroad, which include 23 Disney Channels and eight Toon Disney channels. 

Another candidate could be Giorgio Stock, executive vice president and managing director of Disney Channels, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Stock, who just took that post in March, has been with Disney since 1997 and prior to his current job was head of Disney Channels, Italy.

A dark horse could be Paul Lee, who has had a strong track record turning around ABC Family. The channel's ratings have improved dramatically under Lee over the last five years, and it has a successful series in "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and a franchise in its "25 Days of Christmas" programming.

-- Joe Flint