Disney Film Chief Rich Ross Resigns After Loss on 'John Carter'

Studio Marketing Head M.T. Carney Left in January

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Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Co.'s film unit since October 2009, has resigned following the company's $200 million loss on the science-fiction picture "John Carter."

Rich Ross
Rich Ross Credit: Disney

Mr. Ross' exit follows the departure in January of studio CMO M.T. Carney, a Madison Avenue veteran who Mr. Ross hired in 2010.

Disney announced Mr. Ross' resignation in a statement confirming an earlier report by Reuters. It did not name a successor.

Disney CEO Robert Iger's strategy of producing fewer films but built around marketable characters, such as those from its Pixar and Marvel units, faltered with the film's failure. "John Carter" will result in a quarterly loss of as much as $120 million for the studio -- the first since Mr. Ross succeeded Dick Cook as chairman.

"I don't know that anybody is shocked," said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst with Wedge Partners in Greenwood Village, Colo. " 'John Carter' was a debacle and probably the last straw." Previous disappointments included "Mars Needs Moms."

Mr. Ross, a 15-year Disney veteran, had worked at and led the Disney Channel, creating shows including "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana," starring Miley Cyrus.

"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," Mr. Iger said in the statement.

Disney ranks No. 7 among studios in 2012 domestic ticket sales, with $186.7 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. "John Carter," made for about $250 million, generated $269.4 million worldwide, a total shared with theater operators.

The film went over-budget and was poorly marketed, Mr. Pyykkonen said. Ms. Carney left before the movie opened.

The "John Carter" loss is possibly the largest in film history. Matthew Harrigan, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities in Denver, said last month that it was the biggest he had seen in his 20 years following the industry.

But Disney has very high hopes for "The Avengers." That film, estimated by IMDB to cost $220 million, will open May 4 to mark the start of the traditional summer-movie season.

-- Bloomberg News --

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