Richard Bates, Disney’s Longtime Head of Government Relations, Dies at 70

Richard Bates, the longtime head of government relations for Disney, died Dec. 31 at his home outside Washington, D.C. He was 70.

Disney said the executive’s death was sudden. Bates had represented Disney in the halls of Congress and other public policy arenas since 1991.

Disney insiders are “heartbroken” over Bates’ death, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger and CEO Bob Chapek said in a joint statement. Friends and co-workers described Bates as a “gentleman” who was extremely knowledgable about governmental issues.

“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.”

Bates served as senior VP of government relations for Disney. He was the first to open a Washington, D.C. office for the studio when he signed on. Before joining Disney, Bates served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he steered a staff of 80.

In 2018, Bates was elected to the board of trustees of the Media Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization for free speech and communications policy issues.

Bates was a native of Fairfax, Va. Survivors include his wife Rose and two sons, Ricky and Chris.