Bob Iger To Replace Bob Chapek As Disney CEO Just Months After Chapek Got Big Contract Extension
One of Disney's most successful CEOs is returning after calling rumors of his return "ridiculous."
The Walt Disney Company has undergone a big shakeup, as current CEO Bob Chapek is stepping down, effective immediately, with longtime former CEO Bob Iger returning to be CEO again.
According to The New York Times, Chapek was determined to have done "irreparable damage to his ability to lead, with a string of missteps resulting in the lost confidence of Wall Street and most senior Disney executives, as well as many rank-and-file employees."
In June 2022, Walt Disney's Board of Directors unanimously voted to extend Chapek's contract until 2025, signaling it had confidence in Chapek and his management team to lead Disney into the future. At the time, Disney's board said, "Bob is the right leader at the right time for The Walt Disney Company, and the Board has full confidence in him and his leadership team."
Things seems to have changed quickly. Susan Arnold, the Chair of the Board of Directors at Walt Disney, called Iger on November 17 to ask if he would be interested in returning, NYT reported.
Chapek became Disney CEO in February 2020, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to Disney closing its parks around the world. In March this year, Disney and Chapek got into a back-and-forth with Florida governor Ron DeSantis over the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and management's lackluster response to the bill led to a staff walkout.
As CEO of 15 years, Iger oversaw the acquisition of companies like Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm; most recently, he led the buyout of Fox's entertainment business. He was one of Walt Disney's most successful CEOs and one of the most celebrated and influential executives across the wider media landscape.
Iger worked at Walt Disney for 40+ years, including 15 years as its CEO, before he originally exited. Iger isn't coming back forever, however, as he agreed to be Walt Disney's new CEO for two years. His mandate from the Board of Directors will be 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."
"We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic," Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board said. "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," Arnold added.
Iger said he is "extremely optimistic" about the future of Disney and was "thrilled" to be asked to return as its CEO.
"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," he said. "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."
Iger departed from his role as Walt Disney CEO in 2020 but stayed on with the company as its Executive Chairman until December 2021.
In January this year, Iger said rumors that he could return to become Walt Disney's CEO again were "ridiculous." Here's how the exchange played out from his interview with Kara Swisher.
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.
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