Disney's Tom Staggs steps down in surprise move
Disney's chief operating officer, Tom Staggs, is to step down in May, leaving the company without an heir apparent for chief executive Bob Iger.
Mr Iger was set retire in 2018, but may prolong his tenure now that his second-in-command has left.
It is rumoured Mr Staggs left because he was not guaranteed the chief executive role.
The company said its board would "broaden the scope of its succession planning process" for chief executive.
Disney did not announce a replacement for Mr Staggs, who will remain an adviser until September.
Mr Staggs - who officially steps down on 6 May - joined Disney in 1990. He served as head of parks and resorts and chief financial officer before being appointed as chief operating officer last year.
In a statement, Mr Iger said: "I'm proud of what we've accomplished together, immensely grateful for the privilege of working with him, and confident that he will be enormously successful in whatever opportunity he chooses."
Mr Iger has already extended his period as head of Disney twice before. In his 15 years as the company's chief executive, Disney has brought in record profits and acquired valuable brands including Marvel, Pixar and Lucas Films - the creator of Star Wars.
Disney's shares were down 2% on Tuesday.