Dana Walden Pumps Up New Disney Staff in Memo: ‘Overwhelmed By the Excitement’ for Future

Walden and Disney Television Studios president Craig Hunegs rally employees amid layoffs

Last Updated: March 22, 2019 @ 3:35 PM

Dana Walden, the newly-entrenched chairman of ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios, attempted to rally her new staff on Friday, amid company-wide layoffs following the close of the Disney-Fox merger.

“I am almost overwhelmed by the excitement I feel for our future,” Walden wrote in an internal memo. “We are now positioned to win, big time, and I am grateful to Bob [Iger] and Peter [Rice] for giving me this opportunity.”

Walden’s memo comes as many Fox employees — mostly on the film side — are being laid off as Disney integrates Fox into its operations. The layoffs have affected a couple of major TV executives — Twentieth Television president Greg Meidel and 20th Century Fox TV Distribution president Mark Kaner.

“Please know that we are all here for you and that we too are experiencing both the exhilaration and anxiety that accompany change,” Walden continued.

On Wednesday, Disney completed its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets.

Disney set most of its senior leadership on the TV side prior to the close of the deal. Along with Walden, Peter Rice has moved over and serves as chairman of Walt Disney Studios and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. Hunegs was brought in to oversee the newly-named Disney Television Studios, which encompasses ABC Studios, ABC Signature, 20th Century Fox TV and Fox 21.

John Landgraf and Gary E. Knell who serve as chairmen of FX and Nat Geo Partners, respectively, will report to Rice. Ben Sherwood, who had been serving as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and the president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, is leaving now that the merger is closed.

In a memo of his own, Hunegs confirmed that the leadership at each of the individual studios would remain in place:

“As we go forward, each of our studios – ABC Studios led by Patrick Moran, 20th Century Fox Television led by Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman and Fox 21 led by Bert Salke – will continue to carve out unique identities with their own distinctive creative taste,” he wrote. “I’m here to help bring it all together, to have us work seamlessly as a group. It’s a time of rapid, fundamental change in television and I’ll work with all of you to make sure we have what we need to grow and succeed.”

Read Walden’s full memo below:

Day three, and the energy and excitement inside our newly merged organization is palpable! I’m so happy to be starting this journey with all of you. To say I’ve been looking forward to this week would be an enormous understatement, and I want to start by thanking you for the warmth, thoughtfulness and goodwill many of you have already extended to your new colleagues.

Over the past few months, I have had the good fortune of getting to know some of you on the Disney side, and throughout my 26 years at Fox I’ve been lucky to work with many of you for decades. The combined companies represent a dream team of executives and staff, and we all share the same goal — to be the best by creating the best environment for our people and our extraordinary creative partners.

When you look across the Disney Television Studios, ABC Entertainment, the ABC Owned TV Stations and Freeform, many of us have already worked together in the past. Our companies have a long history of teaming up to do spectacular things together. Look no further than multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner Modern Family for an example of the extraordinary work that resulted when we joined forces. That happened when we were completely separate companies — just think about how much we can achieve now that we are united. There is no greater bonding experience than shared success, and I know that going forward we will have much to celebrate together.

I am genuinely thrilled to be embarking on this new chapter in my career with a stellar leadership team — Karey [Burke, ABC Entertainment president], Craig [Hunegs, Disney Television Studios president], Tom [Ascheim, Freeform president] and Wendy [McMahon, ABC Owned TV Stations Group president]– who understand that a winning business starts with a winning culture. The five of us realize that bringing our businesses together will require strategy and patience. Please know that we are all here for you and that we too are experiencing both the exhilaration and anxiety that accompany change.

Throughout my own transition to becoming a Disney employee, I have been thoroughly impressed with The Walt Disney Company’s Human Resources team. They are compassionate and highly skilled executives who are here to help us all through the integration. Each business unit has a dedicated HR business partner, with whom you can be connected through your supervisor. They’ve provided this five-minute video that highlights how you can think about and embrace change. I hope everyone will take the time to watch it.

Finally, I am almost overwhelmed by the excitement I feel for our future. We are now positioned to win, big time, and I am grateful to Bob and Peter for giving me this opportunity. I am especially proud to be working with all of you.

Warmest regards,

Dana

Read Hunegs’ full memo below:

For those of you I haven’t met, I’m Craig Hunegs, President of Disney Television Studios. I feel so fortunate to join Disney, to work for Peter and Dana and to lead our exceptional TV studios.

I’m sure you agree, it’s a truly unique time to create television and we enter it with great strength. Across our studios, we have an unmatched roster of executives and talent, the highest quality programs and an exciting lineup of development projects. Disney has networks and streaming services with an insatiable need for high quality, diverse programs. We have unprecedented opportunities for our creators to tell stories and touch audiences.

As we go forward, each of our studios – ABC Studios led by Patrick Moran, 20th Century Fox Television led by Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman and Fox 21 led by Bert Salke – will continue to carve out unique identities with their own distinctive creative taste. I’m here to help bring it all together, to have us work seamlessly as a group. It’s a time of rapid, fundamental change in television and I’ll work with all of you to make sure we have what we need to grow and succeed. I’ll also focus hard on making DTS the absolute best place to work for talent, for executives and for all our employees.

An important measure for us will be the compelling, breakout series we create for our sister platforms, ABC, Disney+, Freeform, FX, Hulu and NatGeo. Our relationship with them will figure hugely in our success, and across creative and business affairs we will aim for a true, friction-less partnership.

I feel incredibly lucky to do what we do. We touch and entertain audiences all over the world and together we can do it in an even more impactful way.

Over the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting and getting to know each and every one of you.

Best,

Craig