Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross Steps Down, Says The Job Is Not The "Right Professional Fit"

The fallout from John Carter continues. Rich Ross, who two and a half years ago was the high-profile successor to the ousted Dick Cook as chairman of Disney's motion picture studio, has stepped down. Ross had come to the motion picture division from the Disney Channel, where he was part of the creation of hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

As Ross took over Disney he oversaw a shift in the studio's film output to emphasize Pirates of the Caribbean-style material: big, safe crowd-pleasers with a solid merchandising base. But then there was John Carter, this year's release that the company admitted would represent a writedown of about $200 million. "I no longer believe that the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me," Ross told Reuters today.

Ironically, this move comes just as Disney prepares to distribute its first Marvel Studios project: The Avengers, a film which is already looking like a lock as one of the year's most successful releases. Read the full statement from Ross below.

For the last 15 years I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world's best-loved brand. During that time, we've told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.

I've always said our success was created and driven by our own people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It's one of the leadership lessons I've learned during my career and it's something I've been giving a great deal of thought to as I look to the challenges as opportunities ahead.

I belive in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.

It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I've had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the studios in good hands, and even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.

It's worth noting that Ross did not greenlight John Carter — Cook did. The film was already casting and in pre-production prior to Cook's ouster and Ross' hire. That said, Ross might have pulled the reins on Andrew Stanton, and there is arguably a failure in leardership with respect to the way the film was allowed to shoot, and with the way it was marketed. That latter point could be one of the most important with relation to the departure of Ross.

Just as was the case when Dick Cook was fired, the question now is: who replaces Ross? The names that are going to come up once again are John Lasseter and Kevin Feige, with the latter perhaps looking like a strong choice given how well his blueprint for The Avengers has paid off. Feige is probably better off staying with his Marvel gig, and I suspect that we'll see the choice of another guy in the Ross mold — someone who is more a dedicated business leader than Lasseter. We'll report Disney's choice as soon as a name is released.

Finally, Anne Thompson has a good analysis of why Ross had to go. And Deadline insists that Ross was fired.