Mahesh Samat returns to Disney India as Managing Director after four years

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MUMBAI: Former Disney India head Mahesh Samat is set to return to the company after 4 years.

Walt Disney International, a division of The Walt Disney Company, today announced that Samat will return to his leadership role of The Walt Disney Company India as managing director starting November 28. Based in Mumbai, he will report directly to Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International.

Replacing current India head Siddharth Roy Kapur, Samat will resume management of all Disney businesses in India (except ESPN), with all local business segments reporting into him.

“Mahesh guided Disney in India in its early days, and we are thrilled with his decision to return to the organisation he helped build,” said Bird. “We are encouraged by the opportunity we see to further grow our business in India and believe Mahesh’s entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge of our brands and franchises, and long-standing expertise in our broader operations will continue the momentum we are experiencing in this dynamic market.”

ET had earlier reported that Kapur and Disney have mutually agreed not to renew the contract. “Sid is a pillar of the Indian entertainment industry and has demonstrated passion and commitment for the Disney business. He carved a strong position for Disney in the Indian media and entertainment space that positions us well for the future. We are immensely thankful for his service and wish him well in his next venture,” Bird added.

As MD, Samat will have responsibility for setting and driving The Walt Disney Company’s strategy, coordinating all business efforts in India including overseeing Disney global franchises in the market, expanding existing businesses, and creating new business opportunities.

Samat had left Disney India in early 2012 after the company took over Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV Software. He launched his own TV venture, Epic Television Networks in 2014, which runs a Hindi entertainment channel focused on history, folklore and mythology-based content.

Recently, Aditya Pittie of Pittie Group joined the company as director to lead the day-to-day operations of the channel, paving the way for Samat to move back to Disney.

“It’s exciting to return to the wonderful world of Disney,” Samat said. “Disney really is special entertainment with heart, and I am delighted to see that the unique stories and iconic characters of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars–as well as our homegrown brands of Hungama, Bindass and UTV–continue to find a home among Indian audiences. Moving forward, we’ll accelerate the great work done by the team and create new, innovative ways for audiences to engage with our stories, brands and characters, and drive growth across our businesses.”

With over 25 years of experience in FMCG and Healthcare across India, Asia-Pacific and Europe, Samat originally joined Disney in 2007 from Johnson & Johnson, where he was the Managing Director, Southern Europe, J&J Vision Care, based out of London. Prior to Johnson & Johnson, he worked for Kellogg’s, Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis, and Boots India Limited.