The Walt Disney Company board of directors officially appointed Bob Iger as the current CEO, as Bob Chapek steps down.
With the last quarter earnings performance for Disney being underwhelming, a company email stated that former CEO Bob Iger would return to his mantle as the head of the entertainment, cruise and theme park company. Surprisingly, Iger and the board fired his successor, Bob Chapek, after multiple disappointing quarters in Disney’s financial books. The board explicitly noted that Iger will be returning on a two-year contract.
Chapek had faced a lot of controversy and feedback from the creative community since he stepped into the CEO role. The former CEO had blowback due to his cost-cutting measures and sometimes questionable approach to talent, while theme park visitors were upset over the theme park price increases.
“The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period,” Disney’s chairman, Susan Arnold, said in a statement. Arnold continued, “We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.”
While the position for Iger would be temporary, he “has agreed to serve as Disney’s CEO for two years, with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to lead the Company at the completion of his term,” the board said. The hot question that will be stirring in the next couple of years will continue to brew as he searches for another successor.
Originally, Iger stepped down as CEO back in February 2020, offering the position to Chapek, who previously led the company’s theme parks and consumer products division. Arnold thanked Chapek for leading the company during a tough time for the company, with the COVID-19 pandemic—and all theme parks, cruises, movie and TV productions had to shut down for an exhaustive amount of time. With the pandemic, Chapek’s company strategy emphasized efforts in Disney+.
However, one of his biggest controversial moves was the heated lawsuit battle Disney had with Marvel star Scarlett Johansson. The result ended with a settlement payment for Black Widow when Chapek decided to push audiences to pay for the film on Disney+ versus the box office. And then, Chapek faced backlash for not helping to quash the Republican bill in Florida, which would prevent teachers from instructing early grades on LGBTQ+ issues.
Public misfires were one thing, but ultimately, Disney’s last few quarters were lacking. Internally, Chapek announced on November 11 that the company would freeze hiring and would stop non-essential travel, along with plans to layoff workers in an attempt to save costs and maneuver some profitability. Despite Disney’s streamer gaining upwards of 235 million subscribers to Disney+, ESPN and Hulu, the company’s streaming losses have continued to grow.
What made Iger’s legacy a better, more trusting one was because of his ideology of having the company being open and friendly to all kinds of talent in the industry, along with all the acquisitions he headed since the mid-2000’s. He led the acquisition of Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006, Marvel for $4 billion in 2009 and Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012—the perfect trifecta that Disney needed to become the entertainment juggernaut it is now.
In 2019, the company surpassed $10 billion in global box office sales, and it was the same year Disney closed the massive $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox — including 20th Century Fox studio, Fox Searchlight, FX Networks and National Geographic. Iger noted he was “thrilled” to return and “extremely optimistic” about Disney’s future. Iger stayed on as an executive on the board until 2021, and jokingly said how he would not return as CEO in an interview with The New York Times’ Kara Swisher.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
“Kara Swisher: There are rumors that you could become Disney’s C.E.O. again.
Bob Iger: Well, that’s ridiculous.
Kara Swisher: Ridiculous.
Bob Iger: I was C.E.O. for a long time. You can’t go home again. I’m gone.
Kara Swisher: OK.
Bob Iger: My office, my email address–it’s all gone.
Kara Swisher: Right, and all the headaches that come with it. Would you want to be C.E.O. of any other company? Would you think about doing that?
Bob Iger: No. I think if I wanted to run a company, I’d still be running Disney. No. No, I did that.”
Iger wrote to his employees: “I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty — perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty — our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible”