After Three Months, Geoff Morrell Out at Disney

Geoff Morrell is no longer working for The Walt Disney Company. After just three months, Morrell is leaving Disney to “pursue other opportunities.” The news was told jointly to Disney employees by Morrell and Disney CEO Bob Chapek on Friday.

“After three months in this new role, it has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right fit,” Morrell told employees in an email.

Morrell came to Disney earlier this year to oversee its communications, government relations, and public policy efforts. He previously worked as a Pentagon spokesman during the Bush administration and then as an executive for BP. Ultimately, the success he found in those previous positions did not translate to success at Disney.

The last three months have been rocky for The Walt Disney Company as it has found itself embroiled in controversy after initially not taking a stand on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida. The company then backpedaled on the issue and found itself facing the ire of Republicans in the state who have moved to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which governs the land Walt Disney World Resort is on.

Kristina Schake will take over global communications and report directly to Chapek. Government relations and public policy will now be taken over by Disney general counsel Horacio Gutierrez. Schake joined Disney earlier this month and Gutierrez came to the company earlier this year.

Chapek emailed Disney staff praising both of these leaders and endorsing them moving forward. The full email can be read below:

Team-

I am writing to share the news that Geoff Morrell, our Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. Fortunately, the strength and experience of our existing leadership team—including relatively new all-star hires—means there is no shortage of talent to guide our reputation-driving functions. With Geoff’s departure, I am pleased to share the following changes:

First, Kristina Schake will lead The Walt Disney Company’s communications efforts, serving as our Executive Vice President, Global Communications reporting directly to me. In this expanded role, Kristina will have oversight for corporate and segment communications and continue to be our chief spokesperson. Our business segment and content communications leads will continue to dual report to both division leadership and corporate communications, now led by Kristina.

We are incredibly fortunate to have Kristina with us at this important time. Her 30-plus years of experience includes roles leading President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine education program, communications for Instagram, and leadership positions in political campaigns and the Obama White House. Kristina has a strategic approach and collaborative style, as well as relentless optimism and a strong appreciation of our brand and its place in the world. These attributes will be invaluable as she works to protect and enhance our reputation, and I am thrilled to be working with her more closely.

Next, Government Relations and Global Public Policy will now be led by our General Counsel, Horacio Gutierrez. Since joining the company earlier this year, Horacio has integrated seamlessly into the Disney family, and has quickly become a valued advisor to me and the leadership team on a wide range of issues. His extensive experience leading these areas will be incredibly useful in driving our efforts.

In addition to his current direct reports, Susan Fox, Senior Vice President for Government Relations, and Yvonne Pei, Senior Vice President, External Relations, Greater China, will join Dorothy Attwood, Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy, in reporting directly to Horacio.

Finally, Jenny Cohen, Executive Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, will now report solely to me in her role leading our CSR and ESG efforts. Jenny is a strong leader, and has done incredible work modernizing our approach in key areas like environmental sustainability, community investment, and philanthropy.

I am incredibly confident in this team, and look forward to working with them and all of our leadership to set Disney’s course for the next 100 years of extraordinary entertainment and experiences.

What do you think of Geoff Morrell’s sudden departure from Disney? What do you think of his replacements? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

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