In what can only be described as an unexpected turn of events, the leadership atop The Walt Disney Company has shifted dramatically tonight. Bob Chapek, who replaced Bob Iger as CEO just two years ago is out and Iger is back as CEO effective immediately.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board. “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.”
“Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide—all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership,” she said.
Chapek took over the reins as CEO just before the world was plunged into the chaos of a global pandemic. For the most part Chapek continued pursuing the Iger led strategy of shifting emphasis to streaming content, but his decision to consolidate large portions of the company, the perception that he is not in touch with both cast members and consumers, plus various stumbling blocks that have seen the Disney stock value drop precipitously, were definitely warning signs.
We’re sure the recent losses reported for streaming in the Q4/Fiscal Year report didn’t help…nor did the constant criticism from Disney guests and fans for the decisions he’s made in the parks and entertainment division.
After that last quarterly report, there were a number of Wall Street observers who felt that Chapek only had a short runway left to turn things around despite there being nearly 3 whole years left on his freshly signed contract (that came with a vote of confidence from the Board of Directors, btw).
TWDC has not yet stated the reason(s) for Chapek’s sudden departure.
Iger’s first run as CEO was highlighted by multiple company acquisitions, starting with Pixar for $7 billion and ending with 20th Century Fox for 10 times that amount. Iger had spent the last few years of his 15 years as CEO looking for a replacement, extending his stay in the position a few times, until Chapek was named.
“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Mr. Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”
On Sunday night Iger also sent out the following short note to cast members and employees. It reads in part:
“It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement — that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer.
“When I look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN, and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the phenomenal reimagining and rebound of our Parks the continued great work of ABC News, and so many of their achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.”
It’s great to see that one of the first things Iger does is reach out to the employees of the Mouse House with a pat on the back and a thank you for working for the last three years. There’s a lot of bad will, especially among the Disney Parks and Entertainment division, which has been asked to move to Florida and then told that was on hold for up to 6 years, out there for Chapek and Iger and the Board of Directors have some work ahead of them to mend bridges.
It’s way too early to know what changes Iger will make to try and right the ship. But it sounds like they expect him to stay 2-3 years until a new CEO can be found
When this news broke, I was so shocked that I emailed the reporter and asked if their Twitter account had been hacked, but it is true.
Let us know what you hope to see from Bob Iger over the next few years as CEO of Walt’s company.
Thank you to Michelle Snow for contributing to this story.