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Nervous 21st Century Fox employees huddled Wednesday with president Peter Rice at the studio lot in Los Angeles looking for comfort with jobs in the balance as Disney is poised to take over many of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled assets, though specific answers were a rarity, according to some in attendance.
Rice, who is set to become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks after the partial merger with Disney closes, was asked many times if such-and-such job was in jeopardy, though he offered no assurances.
Rice, accompanied by some legal and human resources executives, said employees need to be “operationally ready” should the Disney deal close Jan. 1, even though Disney and Fox have repeatedly said the regulatory process could drag on for a few months beyond that date.
Although some jobs are in limbo, the mood at the town hall gathering was at times jovial, with one employee identifying himself as Disney CEO Bob Iger before asking a question.
In the large picture, Rice said he is bullish about Disney’s acquisition of the film and TV studio and several cable channels because both Fox and Disney are “creative” companies and Disney has a good track record for not fixing what isn’t broken, like with Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, all of which have thrived since Disney acquired them.
The meeting came two days after Fox chief human resources officer Thomas Gaissmaier issued a memo to employees promising that each worker who loses his or her job due to Disney’s acquisition will get a “generous severance.”
Insiders say another town hall meeting is scheduled for later on Wednesday.
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