Disney names Hollywood veteran Horn as studio boss

Thu May 31, 2012 7:59pm EDT
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By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Walt Disney Co named Hollywood veteran Alan Horn chairman of its film division, turning to an executive skilled at managing big movies and big personalities to run a unit plagued by management turnover in the last three years.

Horn, who developed a reputation for creating hit film franchises such as "Harry Potter" and "The Dark Knight" during his long tenure at Warner Bros Entertainment, replaces Rich Ross, a former Disney Channel executive who quit in April after less than three years. Ross took over from long-time chairman Dick Cook, who was forced out in 2009.

"This is a safe hire," said analyst David Miller, managing director at Caris & Co, which follows the company. "His specialty is in dealing with franchises and Disney says it wants to make franchise films."

Horn, 69, reluctantly resigned last year as president of Warner Brothers, owned by rival Time Warner Inc, as part of succession planning at the studio.

At Warner Brothers, he oversaw movie and home entertainment operations and is generally considered one of the architects of the industry's "tent pole" philosophy, in which studios focus on larger-budget films that play well overseas.

Disney this year has had mixed results with its tent pole releases. The company scored big with "The Avengers," which ranks as one of the biggest hits in box office history with $1.3 billion in worldwide sales so far. It currently ranks as the fourth highest-grossing film ever, according to Box Office Mojo.

But it lost big on sci-fi adventure film "John Carter," one of the biggest box office busts in movie history. The studio lost $84 million in its most recent quarter after taking a $200 million writedown on the film, which led indirectly to Ross' resignation.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said of Horn: "He's earned the respect of the industry for driving tremendous, sustained creative and financial success, and is also known and admired for his impeccable taste and integrity."   Continued...