More Disney Layoffs Sees Fox Marketing & PR Execs Shown The Door – Update

By Dominic Patten, Anthony D'Alessandro

Disney Studios

EXCLUSIVE 2ND UPDATE WITH MORE NAMES: Just under two months after the Walt Disney Company officially took control of the majority of Fox’s film and TV assets in a seismic $71.3 billion deal, another round of lay-offs are slicing through Burbank and over on Pico Boulevard.

A Disney spokesperson has confirmed to Deadline that people are being pink-slipped but gave no further details.

However, sources inform us that the cuts are wide-spread across Walt Disney Studios. At the same time we also hear that the latest round of cuts look to be more extensive that the previous layoffs that have occurred since Disney formally acquired the Fox assets on March 19.

As individuals are being informed today, most of the actual exits look to be timed for early June. While particular employees of the now melded companies may be losing their jobs, no single department is being wiped out, it seems.

Deadline has recently learned that Carol Sewell, EVP of Marketing who was also overseeing publicity is being let go. Her role was eliminated given that Michelle Sewell (no relation) is the longstanding EVP of publicity over at Disney. Carol Sewell cut her teeth at Paramount in the early 90s and transitioned to Fox in 1995 working on such campaigns as the Star Wars movies, Fox/Marvel titles and Moulin Rouge, and Borat. She left Fox in 2011 as EVP Publicity to join Pantelion Films as Head of Marketing,  working on the top-grossing Spanish language hit stateside Instructions Not Included. Sewell returned to Fox in September in her current role.

Also being let go is Mary Goss Robino, EVP of Global Marketing Partnerships who arrived at the Fox lot in July 2018.  Robino’s position was a duplication given that Lylle Breier is in the same spot over at Disney. Robino, who previously served in senior leadership roles at several other studios, including Sony Pictures, MGM and New Line and working on such franchises as James Bond, Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Austin Powers, Star Trek and others.

Also Fox SVP of Corporate Communications, Chelsey Summey, who is a beacon and friend to journalists in the trenches, is part of today’s round of layoffs. Summey oversaw the studio’s external and internal communications efforts, including box office reporting, trade media relations, transactional announcements, and internal communications. She’s a seven year Fox vet, and prior to her work with the studio, served in various corp comm and publicity roles at Paramount and Paramount Vantage.

Sources earlier today said that among those seeing cuts are top executives in Fox’s domestic film distribution division — in a deeper way than when the unit’s president Chris Aronson was among those laid off in March in the first round of significant post-merger cuts.
Deadline hears that New York-based Bill Lewis and Linda Ditrinco, who had taken over the division after Aronson’s departure, are out as Disney continues to assume oversight of the unit. We also hear that Disney is offering full-time positions to five domestic distribution employees in the New York office and three in Calabasas.

Lewis and Ditrinco had been reporting to Disney SVP and General Sales Manager of North America Ken Caldwell, who in turn report to Disney’s President of Distribution and Franchise Management Cathleen Taff. The Fox team is expected to wrap its duties with the release of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men tentpole Dark Phoenix on June 7 with bookers and regional managers already finished with their duties on the flick.

As it stands right now, the cleaving at Fox’s international distribution unit won’t be as harsh as what’s hitting the domestic team.

HuluThe layoffs notices today follow yesterday’s news that majority stock holding Disney had taken over day-to-day running of Hulu.

The Disney-Fox deal is expected to generate $2 billion in cost synergies by 2021, Disney has said. But, of course, in corporate lingo, “synergies” is often synonymous with layoffs. In the case of the growing House of Mouse media empire, there are several thousand of cuts expected overall before the integration of the Fox assets is complete.

Holding the load of $57 billion in debt on its books, Disney is also sailing into some potentially choppy waters on the streaming front. It has cautioned investors that its decision to pull back film and TV titles from Netflix in order to feed the fall launching Disney+ will create a $500 million hit to operating income for the fiscal year, not to mention the heavy spending on streaming fare.

Hulu, meanwhile, is a major new addition to the fold, but not an inexpensive one.

On Tuesday, as Disney announced its operational control of the streaming service, the company also said it had a plan to buy out Comcast’s remain stake by 2024. At that time, the valuation of Hulu is estimated at $27.5 billion, making the cost of Comcast’s 33 1/3% stake $5.8 billion at a minimum but possibly billions more.

Then there is the other bottom line of the potential loss of NBCU programming. Under this new agreement with Disney, the Comcast-owned entertainment company will have the opportunity to pull the plug on the majority of its content-licensing agreements by 2022,

Speaking at a Wall Street conference on Tuesday, Disney CEO and architect of the Fox deal, Bob Iger said the synergies of consolidating Hulu and positioning it alongside Disney+ and ESPN+ have been “sized” but he declined to offer any numbers.

Later on Tuesday,  Disney-owned ABC anchored the Iger-run company’s sprawling Upfronts presentation in NYC. An event, which saw former Fox outlets like FX and Nat Geo sharing the afternoon presentation with Jimmy Kimmel and ABC Entertainment boss Karey Burke.

Sitting in the Lincoln Center front row, as all the talk of brands and a greater reach were bandied about, were a smiling Iger and the corporate brass.

We’ll update with more details on the latest layoffs as we get them.

Deadline’s Patrick Hipes & Dade Hayes contributed to this report.


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