There have been quite a few prominent ESPN and Disney executives who have left the company over the past few years. The latest is Bryan Castellani, who had been at Disney since 1995, and had held particular leadership roles at ESPN since 2018. He’s moving on to Warner Music Group:
Music Industry Moves: Warner Music Group Taps Disney Exec Bryan Castellani as Chief Financial Officerhttps://t.co/dT6yj2ceZX
— Variety (@Variety) September 19, 2023
Castellani served as executive vice president and chief financial officer for ESPN from July 2018-November 2020, then as EVP (finance) for Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution from October 2020-April 2023, then as EVP and CFO for Disney Entertainment and ESPN until now. Here’s more on this move from Jem Aswad and Thania Garcia at Variety:
Warner Music Group has appointed Bryan Castellani as its new executive vice president and chief financial officer, effective Oct. 16.
Castellani joins with more than two decades worth of experience at the Walt Disney Company, most recently as CFO for Disney Entertainment and ESPN. Castellani was also the executive VP of finance for Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, where he led finance for the segment as well as for its platform distribution, advertising sales, and network businesses.
“Bryan has wide-ranging experience helping one of the world’s most impactful creative enterprises build long-term value and unlock new global possibilities,” said WMG’s CEO Robert Kyncl. “A dynamic, operational CFO, he’ll be an excellent addition to our executive leadership team, as we grow the WMG of the future for the benefit of our artists, songwriters, investors, employees, and partners.”
This may be just a move about the new opportunity at WMG. But Castellani’s exit is also worth considering in light of the other leadership changes we’ve seen at Disney and ESPN over the past few years. At wider Disney, long-time CFO Christine McCarthy exited under unusual circumstances this June, and she was noted as a key figure in the Bob Iger-Bob Chapek back-and-forths (detailed very well by CNBC’s Alex Sherman here; we covered the ESPN side of that here). Castellani was the CFO on that DMED side, the Chapek-created unit that sparked a lot of internal controversy.
Beyond that, there have been a lot of other high-level Disney and ESPN figures who have left in the last few years. Those include Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs (now doing consulting projects with their Candle Media, including consulting for Disney; Mayer is also now running DAZN), Connor Schell and Libby Geist (now producing their own documentaries and docuseries, including for ESPN), John Skipper (now at Meadowlark Media), Marie Donoghue (now at Amazon) and more. All of those situations had their own particular circumstances, but the overall exit numbers are notable.
Those kinds of executive moves from company to company absolutely happen, especially over a period of years. But the recent ones also come around significant uncertainty about the future of ESPN, ABC, and Disney as a whole. Castellani’s departure isn’t necessarily about any of that, but it’s definitely notable to see another prominent Disney executive leaving. And on the sports side, it’s interesting to see another executive who had significant roles in ESPN oversight moving on.