Disney's live action movie boss is leaving as Bob Iger struggles with flops and proxy fight with Nelson Peltz

Sean Bailey, the longtime president of film production for the Walt Disney Co.’s namesake studio, is leaving the company. 

Disney named David Greenbaum, most recently co-head of its Searchlight Pictures unit, to the new position of president, Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios, according to a statement from the company on Monday.

Greenbaum had served as co-president of Searchlight, Disney’s art-house film unit, along with Matthew Greenfield, who will continue solo in that role. Searchlight won two Academy Awards for best picture in recent years with The Shape of Water and Nomadland. Both executives will continue to report to Disney Entertainment Co-Chairman Alan Bergman. 

Disney’s film business, which has towered over Hollywood for years, has struggled of late. The most recent superhero picture, The Marvels, delivered just $206 million in global ticket sales, a fraction of what successful comic-book features typically produce. And after leading the global box office for several years, Disney lost the top spot to Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures in 2023.

Bailey, who had served in the role since 2010, is best known for remaking some of Disney’s animated hits, like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, with live actors. While some became successes — Beauty and the Beast brought in $1.27 billion globally — others like The Little Mermaid failed to perform as well.

Before joining Disney, Bailey produced films including Matchstick Men and Gone Baby Gone. He co-founded the media company LivePlanet with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and was the executive producer of several television programs. He will serve as a producer on Disney’s Tron: Ares and other projects, the company said.

Prior to joining Searchlight, Greenbaum worked for Miramax on pictures such as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

Burbank, California-based Disney is in the midst of a fight with shareholder activists including Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which owns about $3.6 billion of the stock and is seeking two seats on the company’s board at the April 3 shareholder meeting.

Under Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, who returned to lead Disney in November 2022, the company has been cutting costs and reshaping its entertainment operations around online video businesses led by Disney+.

Shares of Disney were little changed at $107.84 in extended trading. The stock is up 19% this year.

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