Richard Bates, Disney’s Senior VP Of Government Relations, Dies

Tom Tapp
·3 min read

Richard M. Bates, longtime senior vice president of U.S. government relations for The Walt Disney Company, died on Thursday.

No cause of death was given, but The Walt Disney Co. said that his passing was sudden. In a joint statement Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger and Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said that “his loss is profound.”

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“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,” they said in a joint statement.

Charles Rivkin, the chairman of the Motion Picture Association, said in a statement, “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.”

Since 2010, Bates oversaw Disney’s D.C. office, including its interactions with federal and state government entities and trade associations. He joined Disney in 1991, having been tapped to open a lobbying office for the company, then a bit of a novelty for studios to have their own government relations representatives. He previously had a career in politics serving as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Through the years, Bates advocated on a host of issues include copyright, trade, travel and telecommunications.

Bates had recently been advocating on a host of issues, including the recently passed Covid-19 relief package. In March, Bates was among the media company executives who attended a White House meeting with President Donald Trump, portions of which were televised, as theme parks faced closures.

Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in a statement, “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, 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.”

The full joint statement from Iger and Chapek is below.

All of us at Disney are heartbroken by the sudden loss of our longtime colleague and dear friend Richard Bates. 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.

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