Coral Cripps
Aug 8, 2023

Disney’s ‘metaverse chief’ departs shortly after division shutdown

Michael White was appointed early last year to spearhead the company's metaverse ambitions.

Disney: over 7,000 employees were laid off earlier this year, including all 50 members of its metaverse unit. Photo: Getty Images/Todd Wawrychuk
Disney: over 7,000 employees were laid off earlier this year, including all 50 members of its metaverse unit. Photo: Getty Images/Todd Wawrychuk

Michael White, appointed to front Disney’s metaverse efforts, is exiting the company shortly after its decision to shut down its dedicated division earlier this year.

In February 2022, the media supergiant announced its plan to launch a series of metaverse-focused strategies within its storytelling and consumer experiences unit. 

White, who joined Disney in 2011 and was previously the company’s senior vice-president of consumer experiences at platforms, was appointed by Disney’s then-chief executive Bob Chapek to front the division. 

White’s appointment occurred at a time when several global brands announced plans to capitalise on the hype. Interest in the trend has since waned, with major platforms seeing a steep decline in daily active users.

In an internal memo released at the time, Chapek called the metaverse “the next great storytelling frontier” and “a perfect place” for the company to pursue its “strategic pillars of storytelling excellence, innovation and audience focus”. 

He said: “We have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.”

In November 2022, Chapek was let go from his role and replaced by current CEO Bob Iger.

In March 2023, Disney announced plans to undergo a broader restructuring process and reduce its headcount by 7,000—the metaverse division among its final cuts. With the exception of White, all 50 members of its team were laid off. It is not clear how a decision about his departure was reached.

Disney has also joined other major brands in ditching metaverse-focused ambitions within the last year. Microsoft also laid off 100 employees from a metaverse core team earlier this year, while close to 4,000 jobs at Meta have since been slashed as portions of its Facebook, Instagram and Reality Labs teams have been cut.

Both Disney and White declined to comment when approached by Campaign.

White's departure was first reported in The Ankler.

Campaign US

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