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Disney D.C. Exec Richard Bates Dies

Richard Bates, 70, senior VP of government relations for The Walt Disney Co. in Washington, has died.

Richard Bates, senior VP of government relations for Disney

Richard Bates (Image credit: Disney)

He was with the company for almost 30 years and before that was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“All of us at Disney are heartbroken by the sudden loss of our longtime colleague and dear friend Richard Bates," said Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger and CEO Bob Chapek in a joint statement. "As head of our Government Relations team in Washington, D.C., Richard was second to none in his field—widely respected for his incredible achievements and beloved for his extraordinary kindness, compassion, and irresistible wit. He was passionate about his work and approached it with the same astuteness and unwavering enthusiasm he demonstrated when he first joined Disney three decades ago. For those of us lucky enough to have known Richard personally, his loss is profound. He will be deeply missed, and our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Rose, their sons Ricky and Chris, and his entire family.” 

“We join The Walt Disney Company in mourning the tragic passing of Richard Bates, the longtime head of Disney's government relations office," said Michael Powell, president of NCTA-the Internet & Television Association. "We have had the privilege of working closely with Richard for many years and saw up close his intelligence and leadership in representing Disney and other content creators. But beyond his many policy successes, Richard was a wonderful colleague and a dear friend to so many. Richard set the standard for excellence and integrity and while his leadership will be missed, his example will remain a guiding light for all of us and the generations that follow in his footsteps.”

“We are profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of our friend and colleague Richard Bates," said Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association. "Everyone loved Richard. Generous, supportive charming and witty, he was widely respected and admired here in Washington and beyond, and he was a fierce advocate for the creative industries and the Walt Disney Company — which for him was much more than a job. His loss is deeply felt throughout the MPA, and it’s with heavy hearts that we think about entering the new year without him at our side."

Preston Padden, himself a former top Disney exec, called Bates "principled and highly effective," as well as "instrumental" in saving the company in 1998.

“NAB is deeply saddened by the passing of Richard Bates," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "Broadcasters were well-served on Capitol Hill by Richard’s larger-than-life personality, his razor wit, his humanity and decency, and his extraordinary competence. As a U.S. Senator [Smith is a former Republican senator from Oregon], I witnessed firsthand his effectiveness and ability to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and I greatly valued his friendship, support and counsel while at NAB. All of us at NAB extend our deepest condolences to his family and his friends and colleagues at Disney.”

“Richard Bates was a valued member of The Media Institute’s Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2018 and continued to be a great friend and supporter of the Institute," said Richard Kaplar, president of the Media Institute. "We are saddened by the news of his passing.  “We are grateful for the opportunity to have known him and worked with him, and we extend our condolences to Richard’s family, friends, and colleagues.”

Bates is survived by wife, Rose, and two sons, Ricky and Chris.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.