Geoff Morrell, chief corporate affairs officer for The Walt Disney Co., is leaving the job after just three months to “pursue other opportunities,” Morrell and Disney CEO Bob Chapek told staff Friday.
“After three months in this new role, it has become clear to me that a number of reasons are not the right fit,” Morrell told employees in an email.
The former BP executive and Bush-era Pentagon spokesman joined Disney earlier this year in a new role, which included oversight of Disney’s communications government relations and public policy efforts.
All three of those areas were tested in recent months, as the company navigated its response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. After initially arguing that Disney should be as apolitical as possible, Chapek and the company dealt with a backlash from employees who felt they didn’t have their backs.
Ultimately, the company would take a public position opposing the bill, but by that point it was too late, and it was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis just a few weeks later. After the signing, Disney argued that it should be repealed, or reversed in court.
That position earned the ire of Republican lawmakers in the state, who passed a bill (which DeSantis also signed) revoking Disney’s special district around Walt Disney World.
Chapek told staff that Kristina Schake will be leading global communications going forward, reporting to him, government relations and public policy being led by Disney general counsel Horacio Gutierrez. Schake had joined Disney earlier this month, reporting to Morrell.
“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,” Chapek wrote of Schake. “These attributes will be invaluable as they work to protect and enhance our reputation.”
Read Chapek’s email to staff below.
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 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 be oversight for corporate and segment communications and will continue to be our chief spokesperson. Our business segment and content communications leads to a 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’m 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 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, reporting directly to Horacio General Chat Chat Lounge
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 in modernizing 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.