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Kareem Daniel

Kareem Daniel

Kareem Daniel (Image credit: Image Group LA)

Starting in the mailroom and rising to the top is a Hollywood trope. But Daniel didn’t even begin at The Walt Disney Co. as an employee: his first position was as an intern. This fall, the 46-year-old Daniel became chairman of Disney’s new distribution division and the first Black person to be a division head, reporting directly to the CEO Bob Chapek. 

That intern title is a bit misleading, though. Daniel wasn’t a college freshman but a Stanford University MBA candidate. After that internship, Daniel actually spent three years at Goldman Sachs before joining Disney in 2007. 

As a child, the Chicago native loved movies but has said in the past, “I never imagined that there was a business side to entertainment.”

At Disney, he proved how much he learned as part of the team involved in the purchases of Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm that have spearheaded Disney’s revenue in the past decade. Prior to his promotion, Daniel was president of Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, overseeing the creation and delivery of products across a variety of channels — including Disney Store and Disney Parks (bringing to life “Star Wars” and “The Avengers” in that arena) — while managing the licensing organization spanning numerous categories. Daniel also oversaw the games and interactive experiences businesses plus Disney Publishing Worldwide.

I never imagined that there was a business side to entertainment.”

Kareem Daniel

In his new role, Daniel’s landscape grows even more. He oversees the organization responsible for the P&L management and all distribution, network and engineering operations, sales, advertising and data worldwide for all content engines. And with streaming revenues vital to survival, he is also responsible for the operations of Disney’s streaming services and domestic television networks while working in close collaboration with creative leaders across the company on content budgeting, as well as programming decisions and the execution of marketing campaigns.

Disney’s most recent numbers — Hulu Plus Live TV, 4.1 million subscribers; Hulu VOD, 32.5 million subscribers; ESPN Plus, 10.3 million subscribers; and Disney Plus, 73.7 million subscribers — show Daniel is off to a good start in his new role and he has a healthy platform from which to work his (Disney) magic.