The other shoe has dropped: Fox began the process of laying off about 4,000 employees on Thursday, one day after the film and TV studio finalized its multibillion-dollar sale to Disney, a studio executive told TheWrap.
Senior-level staff will likely be the first impacted by the cuts, the executive said. Fox human resources began calling employees at the senior vice president, executive vice president and presidential level to deliver the news on Thursday.
Fox head of distribution Chris Aronson was among the first executives at the studio to get the call, putting out a statement on Thursday announcing that he had been let go.
“I am extremely grateful for my time at [Twentieth Century Fox] under the leadership of Tom, Jim, and Stacey,” Aronson said in the statement. “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the domestic distribution team, which I consider to be the gold standard in the business. While I am disappointed not to continue, I look forward to starting a new chapter in this business during this exciting time of change.”
Fox president of international distribution Andrew Cripps was also let go on Thursday, along with Heather Phillips, executive vice president and head of domestic publicity; Mike Dunn, president of product strategy and consumer business development; and Dan Berger, executive vice president of corporate communications.
Pam Levine, Fox’s president of worldwide theatrical marketing, was also among those let go, along with co-president of worldwide theatrical marketing Kevin Campbell, and marketing guru and chief content officer Tony Sella.
Consumer products Chief Jim Fielding also got the news on Thursday that he would not be staying with company. Michelle Marks, senior vice president of media promotions, and Julie Rieger, Fox chief data strategist and head of media, were also let go.
Bob Cohen, Fox studios’ executive vice president of legal affairs and Fox stage productions, who also oversees our theatrical business also left the company as part of the layoffs.
On Wednesday, Disney closed its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s film and TV entertainment assets. Now starts the arduous process of merging the two giant companies.
The layoffs are expected to cut deep through the Fox ranks. Some staff, the executive said, will move over temporarily in a transitional role, though it is unclear at this juncture how long some will have a job at the newly combined company.
Disney has already set some of its senior leadership under the new structure, announcing in October that Emma Watts would make the move to the studio’s management team, reporting directly to Disney studio head Alan Horn as vice chairman for Twentieth Century Fox Film and president of production at Fox.
Disney also said that Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula will stay on as co-chairmen for Fox Searchlight and will also report directly to Horn.
And the studio reversed step on Thursday, making the decision to shutter Fox 2000 after previously announcing that president of production at Fox 2000, Elizabeth Gabler, would make the jump to the combined studio to continue to run the banner.
Hours before Fox executives started getting calls about layoffs, Walt Disney Studio chairman Alan Horn and studio president Alan Bergman sent a memo to Fox staff thanking them for their patience as they prepare for “quite a bit of change.”
“Although there is much to look forward to, we know this integration will entail quite a bit of change across our organizations,” Horn and Bergman wrote. “We want to acknowledge that and assure you we are committed to engaging in this process thoughtfully and communicating changes as we are able – most importantly with respect for all involved.”