Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co., speaks during the reopening of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif., on April 30, 2021. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek abruptly fired his head of television Peter Rice for not being a team player, triggering a rare public statement of support for the CEO from the entertainment giant's board of directors.

Rice, 55, was chairman of general entertainment content and oversaw a vast swath of shows carried across Disney networks, including ABC and the Disney Channel. He came to the company with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox entertainment assets in 2019, and was once considered a possible CEO for the company.

In Rice's place, Disney elevated Dana Walden, another Fox alum.

The sudden firing is the latest chapter in a tumultuous stretch for Chapek. His leadership has come under scrutiny over the past year as he wrestled with challenges that included a high-profile dust-up with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over a new law limiting discussion of sexual identity in classrooms.

Disney shares have fallen 32% this year, more than double the decline of the S&P 500, as Wall Street grows disillusioned with ongoing losses from the TV streaming business at Disney and the industry as a whole. The stock was down 2% to $105.25 Thursday in New York.

Disney Chairman Susan Arnold said Chapek continues to have the backing of the board.

"The strength of the Walt Disney Company's businesses coming out of the pandemic is a testament to Bob's leadership and vision for the company's future," Arnold said Thursday in an emailed statement. "In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the board."

Chapek took over in February 2020 right before the pandemic began its march across the US. He's made some decisions that are unpopular internally, such as taking the authority for approving new TV shows and movies away from creative executives like Rice and putting them in the hands of new group of distribution-focused managers.

Walden, who moves into Rice's role, previously served as chairman of entertainment at Walt Disney Television. She will report to Chapek.

"Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently delivers the entertainment audiences crave," Chapek said.