Leaked Memo Reveals New Finance Structure As Cuts Loom

7 min read
  • Disney CFO Christine McCarthy has restructured its finance teams, according to a leaked memo.
  • Thousands of Disney employees will be laid off next week, Bloomberg reported, across film, TV, parks, and corporate.
  • The finance consolidation is part of CEO Bob Iger’s effort to cut $5.5 billion in costs.

Disney’s chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, named a new finance team pulling together staff from both Disney Entertainment and ESPN. The new structure was outlined in a memo from McCarthy that was reviewed by Insider.

McCarthy shared the details with staff this week, naming Bryan Castellani as the new chief financial officer of Disney Entertainment and ESPN. Disney Entertainment is run by co-chairmen Alan Bergman and Dana Walden. Jimmy Pitaro is chairman of ESPN. (Read McCarthy’s memo below.)

A Disney spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Castellani had been the EVP, finance, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution (DMED), a unit that is being disbanded as returning CEO Bob Iger creates a new structure that gives content executives more oversight of their P&L. Under previous CEO Bob Chapek, who was ousted in November, the company had centralized budgeting and distribution responsibilities under DMED executives.

Castellani will report to Bergman, Walden, and Pitaro, the memo said, in addition to reporting to McCarthy. ESPN’s finances are being knitted more closely with Disney Entertainment’s as part of Iger’s efforts to reduce costs by as much as $5.5 billion. The finance consolidation perhaps signals there are no plans to shed ESPN, a move that some observers and analysts have predicted, though Iger has said this year that the sports network is not for sale.

Under Castellani, Tom Hennessy will run finances for ESPN, including the company’s global sports businesses, the memo said.

The changes are aimed at organizing teams to “service the new company structure and deliver on our cost-saving efforts,” McCarthy wrote, adding, “While our changes are necessary to set the company up for future success, I acknowledge that change can be filled with tough decisions, conservations, and realities.” McCarthy noted that the alignment into a single finance team would help business leaders gain a more holistic picture and “reinforce collaboration.”

Disney’s latest round of staff cuts are set to hit ESPN and other divisions, from theme parks to corporate, starting Monday, April 24. Bloomberg reported that 15% of staff in the entertainment division will be cut, citing people familiar with plans.

Under Castellani, Lukas Wickart will continue to oversee finance for the direct-to-consumer streaming business Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, and Star. Separately, Justin Warbrooke, who has been CFO of DTC and International, according to his LinkedIn profile, will take a direct-to-consumer strategy role reporting to Joe Earley, the former Hulu president who in early April was named president, Direct-To -Consumers, Disney Entertainment. Warbrooke had been a senior member of Chapek’s core management team, according to a company insider.

Trisha Husson, who was promoted in January 2022 to run strategy and business for Disney General Entertainment — the TV businesses under Peter Rice before his sudden exit last summer — is now moved to an unnamed role in strategy and operations at the television businesses, according to the memo.

Greg Richart, who is SVP finance at Disney TV, will leave the company, according to the memo. Richart joined the company in 2003, according to his LinkedIn bio.

Paul Shurgot will oversee finance and strategy for studios, including production finance, marketing, and content valuation. Chris Arroyo will continue to lead finance for distribution platforms along with Dave Czerniewski, for studios financial planning; both will report to Shurgot, the memo read.

Read the portion of Disney CFO Christine McCarthy’s memo that outlines new finance leadership and remits across divisions:

We are now aligning the Disney Entertainment and ESPN Finance organizations with the company’s new operating model.

This new Finance structure is designed to provide our creative and distribution teams with strong financial and strategic support, creating clear lines of responsibility. I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we have worked to organize our teams to service the new company structure and deliver on our cost-saving efforts.

Today, I’m pleased to share more details about our senior Finance leadership for Disney Entertainment and ESPN.

Bryan Castellani has been named CFO, Disney Entertainment and ESPN. In this capacity, Bryan will report to Alan, Dana, and Jimmy, with dual reporting to me. He will lead core business and financial planning functions in support of our content and distribution teams.

The following leaders will report to Bryan and work closely with their segment chairs and their teams:

  • Lukas Wickart will oversee finance for our direct-to-consumer streaming businesses.
  • Paul Shurgot will oversee finance and strategy for our Studios businesses, including production finance, marketing, and content valuation. Chris Arroyo will continue to lead finance for Platform Distribution, as will Dave Czerniewski for Studios financial planning activities, and both will report to Paul.
  • Karen Sack will oversee finance for our entertainment television businesses, including TV studios and ABC News finance, marketing, and networks planning.
  • Tom Hennessy will oversee finance for ESPN, including segment consolidation for our global sports businesses.
  • Nick Lewerke will oversee Content Planning & Analysis.
  • Rohit Shah will oversee finance for Ad Sales.
  • Jeff Grenn will oversee the consolidation segment for Disney Entertainment, and finance in support of Aaron LaBerge’s technology organization across Disney Entertainment and ESPN.

The following leaders will continue to be responsible for finance outside of the US and will report to their regional presidents with a dual report to Bryan:

  • Mani Rangarajan – India

The above integrated financial planning team will allow us to best reflect and operationalize our new structure, while delivering on our mission of proactive, insightful decision support. As one finance team, we are also well-positioned to afford our business leaders a holistic perspective that will strengthen collaboration and the best outcome for TWDC.

As we realign finance, I would like to additionally recognize and thank the following leaders:

Justin Warbrooke will transition to a direct-to-consumer strategy role reporting to Joe Earley. I thank Justin for his leadership in building our direct-to-consumer businesses from inception and look forward to continuing partnerships in growing our streaming platforms.

In addition, Trisha Husson will transition to a strategy and operations role for our television businesses, reporting to Eric Schrier. I am similarly grateful for Trisha’s leadership over these last few years in integrating our entertainment television businesses and growing our industry-leading television content portfolio.

After nearly 20 years, Greg Richart has decided to pursue other opportunities and will work closely with Karen on the transition of her responsibilities. Greg has been a key finance leader of ours and we sincerely appreciate his contributions across several of our businesses.

I am confident that we are building an even more aligned and collaborative team that will enable our businesses and functions and help the company achieve its stated goals. Please join me in supporting the leaders who are taking on new roles and additional responsibilities. Each will be sharing more about their respective teams and structure in the near future.

While our changes are necessary to set the company up for future success, I acknowledge that change can be filled with tough decisions, conversations and realities. There is more work to be done, and I appreciate your continued efforts, resilience and outstanding contributions through this time.

best,

Christine

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