As expected, today’s firing of Disney Studios head Rich Ross has Tinsel Town buzzing, and a picture of a Mouse House in disarray is emerging. Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige has been named several times as a potential replacement, but Nikki Finke’s must-read analysis also confirms what we wrote about last year: legendary skinflint Ike Perlmutter is very much in the mix at Disney, and his personal dislike of Ross certainly didn’t help matters. (Ross was also on the outs with Pixar’s John Lasseter, according to Finke.) But even Disney chairman Bob Iger is feeling the Ike pinch:
Ross arrived at a watershed time for the studio: shortly after Iger entered into the 2009 deal with Marvel. The comic book, TV, and film entertainment company’s Israeli owner Ike Perlmutter is not just a notoriously tough customer but a budget-obsessed megalomaniac besides a recluse. He has taken control of Disney’s consumer products division already (firing here, fixing there), and my sources tell me he is making Iger’s life miserable with back-seat managing of everything, especially Walt Disney Studios. (“Iger has real problems with Ike. That’s the real story,” one of my insiders tells me. ”Bob thought he could handle him. But Ike is uncharmable.”)
Uncharmable. That’s one way to put it.
Although Marvel’s publishing business is still being more or less left alone to do its comics thing, it is increasingly in the middle of Disney’s New York real estate problem. Disney Publishing’s lease on its New York office is up and a new home is being sought. Much of the staff was relocated to White Plains several years ago, but the editorial offices are still in New York. Ike has reportedly volunteered to have them move into Marvel’s midtown offices—offices which are already “snug”, shall we say. The plan hasn’t been approved—Disney has an entire department given over just to moving people around and they operate with military efficiency. They might even require more than one bathroom for their floor plan.
But there’s another story we’re hearing of late: that Disney may move ALL of its East Coast publishing back to Burbank. The only reason Disney ever had a substantial New York publishing base was because of Hyperion Books, the traditional book publishing arm that was created by Michael Lynton more than 20 years ago. You just can’t have a literary publishing house located in LA. So offices in the trendy Flatiron district were set up. Disney’s magazine division (where The Beat was then employed) moved East a few years later, but since then Manhattan real estate prices have led the personnel to be moved away, bit by bit, to less spendy climes like White Plains and Northhampton.
Moving everyone West would cost a fortune. But not everyone would make the move.
At any rate, while it’s clear that JOHN CARTER is the sword that finally felled the unpopular Ross, the Disney-Marvel-Pixar three-way looks very unstable until a suitable studio head is found…and those aren’t easy shoes to fill. Meanwhile, Ike’s influence on the rest of Disney is growing and growing. He is, as we often point out, the number one shareholder. And he’s a guy for whom the traditional perks and rituals of Hollywood mean nothing. Uncharmable? More like invulnerable.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.