Along with emails from Mucha and Braverman, a note from Iger and CEO Bob Chapek just went out over at the House of Mouse revealing the not entirely unexpected exits of Mucha, the fiercely loyal SEVP and Chief Communications Officer, and Braverman, the Senior EVP and corporate general counsel and secretary.
“Alan and Zenia have made an indelible impact on the Company, playing integral roles in Disney’s expansion and transformation into the digital age while cementing its reputation as one of the world’s most highly regarded companies,” Iger and Chapek said in a companywide email. (Read the full emails from Iger and Chapek, as well as Mucha and Braverman, below.)
No replacements have been named for either Mucha or Braverman. However, with Chapek now firmly in place as CEO and seeking his own team, this changing of the guard will likely be fairly seamless, with plenty of runway before the duo or Iger leave, as Disney likes things to play out.
The most inner of Iger’s inner circle during the last two decades of his 47-year Disney and ABC tenure, Mucha and Braverman ascended to the upper ranks around the same time Iger was made president/COO in 2000. Iger took the full reins of Disney in 2005, after longtime ABC lawyer Braverman took on his larger role in 2003 and Mucha, an ex-George Pataki aid, took on overseeing corporate communications in 2002.
Soon after his team was in place, Iger adopted an aggressive yet streamlined acquisition strategy that brought Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and the rest of Lucasfilm, and eventually most of Fox under the Disney banner. Then, having birthed the well-stocked and well-positioned Disney+ streamer in late 2019, Iger the next year began handing over the company to ex-Parks boss Chapek as his successor as CEO after years of speculation and boardroom tea-leaf reading as to who would get the coveted top gig.
In no small part mobilized by sometimes feared and always respected Mucha and former DC attorney Braverman, that calibrated transition took an unexpected turn with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of cinemas and Disney’s global theme park division. With his final contract running until December 31, 2021, Iger became executive chairman to assist Disney through the global health crisis and rapidly changing Hollywood.
And, coming off a stellar Emmy nominations performance this morning, the proof for Iger and his team has been in the Wall Street pudding too. Disney stock was a top performer last year and into 2021 on the fast growth of Disney+, though it started to lose ground in March on jitters over the pace of digital growth and uncertainty as to the pace of recovery at other businesses.
More recently — over the past week or so — the stock has been on a high, up more than 4% Monday on Black Widow‘s performance in theaters and on Disney+ and a recovery seen taking firm hold at the theme parks. JP Morgan came out with a bullish report Tuesday ahead of quarterly earnings, which are set for August 12.
Disney stock is down a hair today but so is the market, and yesterday’s move was significant considering it’s a Dow component, and its rare they move that much.
It makes it kind of the perfect time to say goodbye.
Here’s the email from Mucha:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Now that the world is emerging from the immense challenges brought on by the global pandemic, there is a palpable sense of relief and cautious optimism that better days lie ahead. Over the last 16 months, we have all been tested in countless ways, personally and professionally. It has certainly been the most difficult period of my career. And as I reflect back on all that we have gone through during this monumental period, I find myself marveling at our collective strength and ability to rise in the face of constant uncertainty and shifting circumstances.
For many of us, the challenges of living and working in an era of lockdowns and quarantines brought an unexpected hidden blessing: the opportunity to gain new perspective about what’s truly “essential”, what matters most, and how we each want to move forward in light of these insights. And after thinking about my own life, I was surprised by the realization that, after a long career in roles that have required a 24/7 commitment, what I want most these days is the freedom to focus on other priorities – all the things I always wanted to do with family and friends but simply never had time for.
With this in mind, I’ve decided not to renew my contract beyond the current term, and I will be leaving Disney shortly after year’s end. This is certainly not a decision I made lightly or in haste. As you know first-hand, this isn’t just any company — Disney exists to create joy and delight the world, and has always had a special place in the hearts and lives of millions of people who are personally invested in everything we do. For me, being part of this company has been a rare privilege, one that brings a unique sense of purpose and immense satisfaction.
Through it all, I have been amazed, inspired and energized by your collective commitment and creativity as well as your stamina and sheer grit. I’m proud and profoundly grateful to be part of this extraordinary team, and I thank you all for your collaborative spirit, support and partnership over the years.
I doubt I will ever find a way to adequately express just how much this experience has meant to me, and how thankful I am to all the people across different businesses and operations — past and present — who have made my time at Disney so enjoyable and rewarding. And I am forever indebted to my partners on Disney’s corporate leadership team, who have always led with integrity and a singular commitment to put the needs and best interests of the company first.
I want to thank Bob Iger, in particular, for his outstanding leadership and friendship over the last two decades. Few are more acutely aware of the difference that smart communications strategy and a talented comms team can make, or more appreciative of our contributions to the organization’s success — especially during a dynamic era defined by sweeping change and bold, ambitious goals pursued amidst unprecedented challenges.
As CCO, my priority has always been promoting and protecting the integrity of our brands and elevating and enhancing Disney’s reputation. I’ve had the honor of leading fantastic teams across the company, and together we’ve had great success in our many endeavors and shared countless unforgettable experiences. As this phenomenal company moves forward under Bob Chapek’s strong leadership and clear vision, there will be more important work to be done, more great stories to tell, and more incredible successes to celebrate. I have no doubt that this unparalleled team is up to whatever challenges lie ahead and will continue to find innovative ways to create value across the company for years to come.
With deep appreciation and respect,
Here’s the email from Braverman:
While my job commonly involves making tough decisions, I have recently made the toughest one of my career. After more than 28 amazing years with The Walt Disney Company, I have decided to move on to other things after my current contract expires at the end of the year. I wanted to share this news with you personally, and also tell you why I have made the difficult decision to leave.
For nearly three decades, I have been fortunate to have a job I love and have looked forward to coming to work every day. I love this Company and am as excited as I have ever been about its future. Over the years, I have been blessed to work with great leaders, including Tom Murphy, Michael Eisner and Bob Chapek, along with wonderful colleagues who have become dear friends. In particular, I owe a special debt of gratitude to another exceptional leader, Bob Iger, for his leadership and friendship over the past 28 years and for affording me the incomparable opportunity to share his “Ride of a Lifetime.”
But, at bottom, my greatest joy – the thing that has always kept me going – is my relationship with you and my pride in the legal department we have become together. On a professional level, we have been at the intersection of, and helped enable deals that have transformed the Company – the acquisitions of Cap-Cities, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox – and we have helped light the way in support of countless business dealings that have served to grow the Company and enhance the unique consumer experience that sets Disney apart from everyone else. Yet, what I am most proud of is the heart and humanity that characterizes our community. The shared compassion and desire to make a difference in people’s lives is evident in everything this department does, and I will miss that most of all.
So why have I decided to leave now? Recently, I have thought more and more about what life after Disney might look like for me – what my days would entail if they were shaped by the pursuit of personal interests that so often get deferred due to the press of work. To be honest, the thought of having more free time to explore other opportunities and activities is a proposition that is as scary as it is exhilarating. But it is the inevitable next chapter and, in the end, I decided now is the right time in my life to make the transition. So while I will so deeply miss you and the community and purpose I am leaving behind, I am genuinely excited to begin shaping the future that lies ahead for me and my family.
There will be plenty of time for the tough goodbyes when my tenure comes to an end. Until then, I will remain as focused as I have ever been on leading the amazing group of people that comprise Disney Legal and grateful for the opportunities we have to make a lasting difference.
Here’s the joint email from Iger and Chapek:
Dear Fellow Employee,
Disney’s many accomplishments over its nearly century-long history have been the result of teamwork from a cadre of great people, whose talents, wisdom, and hard work have enabled the Company to soar to commercial and creative heights. And few have had greater impact as members of this world-class team than Alan Braverman, our General Counsel, and Zenia Mucha, our Chief Communications Officer. We were both fortunate to work closely with Alan and Zenia for more than two decades, and are enormously grateful for their partnership, invaluable advice, and friendship—which is why it is bittersweet to share the news that they have decided to retire from the Company after their contracts expire at the end of 2021.
Alan and Zenia have made an indelible impact on the Company, playing integral roles in Disney’s expansion and transformation into the digital age while cementing its reputation as one of the world’s most highly regarded companies. Alan, from a legal and regulatory perspective, and Zenia, from a strategic communications perspective, have played a pivotal role in many of the Company’s most transformative business deals, projects, and strategic initiatives, including the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, the establishment of the Company’s first theme park in Mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort, the launch of our direct-to-consumer business with Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, and Star, as well as various environmental and philanthropic endeavors.
As General Counsel, Alan has served as our chief legal officer, overseeing a team of attorneys responsible for all aspects of the Company’s legal affairs around the world, including public policy and government relations. Since joining Disney in 1995 as part of the Capital Cities/ABC acquisition, he has developed and directed the Company’s legal strategy. Equally important, he has been a key advocate of Disney’s inclusion efforts, implementing programs to recruit and promote diverse legal talent. Alan is also a champion of skills-based volunteerism and launched a pro bono program under which Disney lawyers have donated more than 20,000 hours to efforts serving a variety of underrepresented communities.
Zenia has been the Chief Communications Officer since 2002, responsible for overseeing all global communications for the Company and its business segments. Among her innumerable contributions, she oversaw the creation of the first-ever official Disney fan club, D23, which now serves more than one million members in all 50 states and 100 countries. She also launched the bi-annual D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event, and the award-winning quarterly magazine, Disney twenty-three. Because of her, the Company has a strong, enduring network of support from fans worldwide.
One of the most rewarding aspects of our tenure at Disney has been the opportunity to work with so many incredibly talented and generous people, and Zenia and Alan are foremost among them—both have been steadfast, independent-minded, passionate about their work, generous with their wisdom, and thoroughly unselfish. There will be opportunities to celebrate them and their storied careers before they depart early next year. But, given the tremendous impact they have had, we wanted to take this opportunity in the wake of their decision to thank them personally for their singular contributions to our Company and, most important, for their support and friendship.
Bob Iger and Bob Chapek
Deadline’s Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.