Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said on Friday he will resign, effective immediately, from the unit of the Walt Disney Co to pursue new adventures.
Cook, who fondly described his 38-year rise from ride operator to head the legendary Hollywood studio in 2002, said in a statement that he had been contemplating his departure for some time now and felt it was the right time to move on.
Cook, who is 59, told his staff in a meeting on Friday that he felt like a square peg in a round hole, according to a source familiar with Cook's statement but who asked not to be named. The source did not elaborate.
His departure was not the result of a conflict with Chief Executive Bob Iger or the company's corporate side, the source said. A Disney Studios spokeswoman said the division was not ready to announce a successor.
The surprise exit by a respected movie industry figure comes just days after Cook said at a glitzy Disney exposition in Anaheim, California that the studios' upcoming slate of films was the best in our history.
Cook presided over the integration of Pixar Animation Studio, the much-derided Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that went on to gross more than $2 billion at worldwide box offices and a roster of big event films like The Chronicles of Narnia, National Treasure, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor.
Under his watch, Disney became the first studio to push digital 3D technology with Chicken Little and got top directors like Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis on board to make 3D films to revitalize an industry that was losing ground to video games, piracy and digital home entertainment systems.
But the studios division struggled in recent quarters with a slide in DVD sales and a spate of unprofitable films.
In a statement, Iger wished Cook well and praised his outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship.
Larry Gerbrandt, a principal at consultancy Media Valuation Partners, said Cook's resignation could be tied to Disney's $4 billion acquisition last month of comic book publisher and movie studio Marvel Entertainment Inc, and Disney's reliance on its Pixar Animation Studios division.
The future of Disney is probably going to be driven much more by the combination of Pixar and Marvel, Gerbrandt said.
If Disney is not going to develop a significant slate of completely original films, but relies primarily on Pixar and Marvel, then Dick's role becomes far less important, he said. (Reporting by Gina Keating and Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Carol Bishopric)