Disney adds two board members from tech world

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in November.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Walt Disney Co. has added two new directors with strong credentials in technology to its board: Safra Catz, chief executive of Oracle Corp., and Francis A. deSouza, CEO of biotech firm Illumina Inc.

Catz and deSouza will join Disney’s board Feb. 1, the company announced Thursday.

“Safra A. Catz and Francis deSouza are extremely well-respected in their fields, and each brings an innovative and valuable perspective to our business,” Disney Chairman Bob Iger said in a statement.

Disney did not say whether the new board members would replace retiring ones or if the Burbank company was planning to expand its board from 12 to 14 members. A Disney representative was not immediately available for comment.


The appointments come as Disney gears up to buy much of Rupert Murdoch’s media company, 21st Century Fox. The proposed acquisition, which could be announced as early as next week, would transform Disney into a global media Goliath that could better compete against Netflix, Google, and Facebook.

Traditional media companies have been playing catch-up with internet titans, which have roiled established economics of the film and TV business. Disney has become more aggressive and plans to roll out two streaming services in the next two years: an ESPN-branded service next year and a Disney movies and TV service in 2019.

“As technology and entertainment further converge, it’s an exciting time for the company, and I look forward to working with the board in continuing Disney’s rich legacy of innovation,” Catz said in a statement.

Catz, one of the most-prominent female CEOs in the U.S., became chief executive of Oracle in 2014, when Larry Ellison stepped away from that position. Before that, she served as president, chief financial officer and as a vice president. From 2008 through 2015, she served on the board of the bank and financial services firm HSBC Holdings.

Last year, deSouza became president and chief executive of the San Diego biotechnology firm Illumina. He joined the company as its president in 2013. Before that, deSouza worked at Symantec Corp. as president of products and services.

“It is a privilege to be a part of such an iconic institution,” deSouza said. “At both Disney and Illumina, we have very similar goals: to touch people’s lives. Disney does it through first-class storytelling, and Illumina does it through cutting-edge science.”


In August, Disney’s board elected Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors Co., as a director. She became the 12th board member.