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Disney CFO Christine McCarthy stepping down

The executive is taking a permanent leave of absence due to a family issue; Kevin Lansburry will serve as interim CFO.

The executive is taking a permanent leave of absence due to a family issue; Kevin Lansburry will serve as interim CFO.

The Walt Disney Company’s Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy is stepping down from her rule, the company announced on Thursday.

In a statement, a Disney spokesperson said McCarthy was taking a permanent leave of absence due to a personal medical issue involving a family member. She will be succeeded on an interim basis by Kevin Lansberry, the executive vice president of Disney’s theme parks division.

McCarthy will remain at Disney in a limited role, serving as a strategic advisor to the company while a search begins for her permanent replacement. That search will consider candidates both within and outside the company, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“Christine McCarthy is one of the most admired financial executives in America, and her impact on the Walt Disney Company during her 23 years of dedicated service cannot be overstated,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

McCarthy was the one that offered the company some limited services during the search for a new financial executive, Iger said, and he expressed his gratitude to her for it.

“Christine has served as a key strategic anchor during a period of great transformation, and she and I have discussed her desire to ensure an orderly and successful CFO succession in advance of the company’s transition to its next chief executive officer,” Iger affirmed.

McCarthy said she was “grateful for the opportunity Bob provided me to serve as CFO of this iconic company, and am proud of the work my talented team has done to position Disney to capitalize on the business possibilities that lie ahead.”

“Although I am leaving the CFO role, I look forward to helping with the transition and will always be rooting for the success of my extended Disney family, who have shown time and again that determination, teamwork and the pursuit of excellence are an unstoppable combination,” McCarthy said.

When Lansberry steps into the CFO role, he will assume day-to-day financial oversight of all aspects of Disney’s businesses, to include its broadcast networks, streaming services and film studios.

Specifically, Lansberry will be tasked with developing and executing strategic partnerships in terms of business development, real estate, enterprise technology, labor standards and risk management that helps keep the cash flowing at Disney at a time when the company is cutting back on expenses in an effort to return profit to its cornerstone media and entertainment ventures.

“Kevin has been with the company for more than three decades and is a trusted lieutenant to Christine,” Iger said. “Having expertly served as CFO at our largest business segment since 2017, he has my complete confidence, and I look forward to working with him during this transition.”

The loss of McCarthy is a bittersweet moment for Disney, who credits her with helping the company navigate two years of turbulent waters during the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic.

In an interview with a college-based magazine last year, former Disney executive Kevin Mayer said McCarthy was “able to raise the right kind of debt instruments to keep us afloat.”

“She made the right calls at the right time, and that was very, very deft and very difficult to do,” Mayer affirmed.

It cost her a cozy relationship with Disney’s former chief executive, Robert Chapek, at a time when the company was beginning to turn away from its traditional broadcast and film assets and place most of its bets on streaming services as the core of its future.

Prior to the pandemic — and for a short while after it started — Disney spent billions of dollars producing content for its streaming services, as well as marketing efforts around the product. While Disney had a runaway hit early on with the Star Wars spinoff “The Mandalorian,” most of the content produced for Disney Plus didn’t resonate with audiences, and the company only had red ink to show for its efforts.

Chapek took the brunt of the blame. Last year, Disney’s board voted to push him out and return Iger to the CEO role. For her efforts in working through Chapek’s vision, she was allowed to keep her job.

“Disney’s core businesses came out of COVID stronger in terms of its franchises, sustainability, and profitability,” Markus Hansen, a portfolio manager at an asset management firm, told the magazine Grécourt Gate last October. “Being the CFO behind this is impressive.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).