November 30, 2023
The Bob Iger saga and Disney's next era

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One of the most powerful names in entertainment and media is undoubtedly Bob Iger. Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, retired from his post in 2021 — only to return as head of the Mouse House less than a year after ousting his successor, Bob Chapek.

Iger was initially at Disney for more than a decade, and his tenure has been marked by major expansion within the company. Under his leadership, Disney acquired billions of dollars worth of tentpole IPs from the likes of Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, 21st Century Fox and others. When it comes to its major money driver – its theme parks – Disney recently announced plans to spend $60 billion on its parks and cruise division over the next decade, which CNN noted ” This is almost double what was spent over the most recent 10-year period.” According to Statista, Disney’s net worth was valued at $203.6 billion in 2022.

But behind this success, reports of a number of problems began to emerge, many of them linked to financial trouble along with Chapek and Iger’s search to name an eventual successor to the Mickey Mouse empire. Recent revelations from CNBC’s Alex Sherman described recent events at the company as “the making of an epic succession mess.” What has tarnished the Magic Kingdom’s glamour, and who might replace Iger, 72, when he finally steps down?

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What happened behind the scenes?

The issues reportedly began almost immediately after Iger named Chapek as his eventual successor. However, while Iger would no longer serve as CEO of the company, he was not leaving – Disney announced that he would remain in the role of executive chairman “to ensure a smooth and successful transition until the end of his contract.” .

The plan allowed Iger to continue performing many of his former duties as head of the company – despite the fact that Chapek was now CEO. Disney said that Iger would “direct the company’s creative efforts,” indicating that he would be allowed to remain in control of Disney’s film and television divisions. Chapek, who previously headed Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division, will oversee the company’s “business areas and corporate functions,” Disney said.

According to Sherman, the two men could not be more different; Chapek’s “outward corporate demeanor is that of a Midwestern businessman,” while Iger “holds court around his Brentwood mansion – at a distance from celebrities, producers, super-agents and other Disney executives.”

As time passed after Chapek’s acquisition, Iger reportedly became eager to return to his seat as Disney CEO due to board concerns that Chapek would not be able to handle the position. Chapek “also told a friend that his tenure at Disney was ‘about three years of hell,’ defined by one major theme: his incredible fear that Iger wanted his job back,” Sherman reported.

Chapek was fired by the Disney board in November 2022, and his concerns about Iger taking the job back came true. Sherman told Puck’s “The Town” podcast that the catalyst for Chapek’s dismissal appears to be the September 2022 earnings call, in which Chapek appeared to lament the company’s declining revenues and declining stock prices for that quarter. Instead, Chapek reportedly ignored these warnings in favor of talking about the public reaction to the Disney World Halloween party.

“It was not that the result [of the quarter] were bad,” Sherman said. “What happened was that Chapek lost the confidence of senior executives” on Disney’s board, adding that the board “felt that [Chapek] Just wasn’t listening,” and appeared “completely unfamiliar” with the brand’s position.

What role did Iger play in Chapek’s ouster? it’s hard to say. However, the Mouse House’s reinstated CEO has reportedly “told his peers and colleagues that he has returned to Disney to correct one of the biggest mistakes of his career – casting Chapek,” Sherman reported. The market appears to have had no problem with Iger reasserting control – Disney shares hit a two-year high following his return.

When will Iger leave Disney?

Probably not for at least a few more years. Iger’s contract was extended by Disney’s board earlier this year, keeping him employed at the Mouse House until 2026. This goes against comments that Iger made upon reclaiming the reins from Chapek in 2022, in which he said he would only remain in the post for the next two years while looking for a suitable replacement to take over in 2024. .

Following his contract extension, Iger insisted he was still looking for a replacement despite a commitment to remain in the role until 2026. “Because I want to ensure that Disney will be in a strong position when my successor takes over, I have agreed to the board’s request.” Iger “will remain as CEO for an additional two years,” Iger said in a statement following his extension. “The importance of the succession process cannot be overstated, and as the Board continues to evaluate the highly qualified slate of internal and external candidates, I remain fully focused on a successful transition.”

Who can take his place?

The most obvious heirs at one point were Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer. Staggs worked at Disney for nearly 30 years and once held Chapek’s old job as head of a Disney park. Mayer has been at Disney for over 15 years and led their direct-to-consumer and international platforms.

noted, “Both men were once seen as potential successors to Iger, but Staggs and Mayer both left Disney after Iger passed them over in favor of Chapek. However, Iger was criticized by industry insiders. Sources were surprised when he brought the pair back to Disney in television advisory roles last August.

His decision to bring them back into the company fold means Iger could — and probably is — considering one of them for the eventual top job. Although there are other internal candidates, “Meyer and Staggs should also be viewed as potential contenders,” Fortune reported.

One of these top internal candidates is undoubtedly Dana Walden, who is currently co-chairman of Disney Entertainment. Walden has oversight of large portions of Disney’s television empire, including ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC-owned television stations, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic content, and Onyx Collective. Are. Another top internal candidate is Josh D’Amaro, who leads Disney’s theme parks division.

Although both Walden and D’Amaro have experience in their collective fields, both “have big holes in their resumes that make seeing them to the top more challenging,” Forbes reported. Walden “has never worked at Parks & Resorts (which includes consumer products),” the outlet said, while D’Amaro “has never run a film or TV division, at a time when those operations were secular.” Their businesses are struggling with the changes.”

However, at the end of the day, Disney’s board will have to make the final decision on Iger’s replacement — a board that is filled with members “who were effectively hand-picked by Iger, and most have little entertainment background,” according to Forbes. he said. The fact that the board has effectively placed the burden on Iger’s successor “seems like an abdication of responsibility and an example of the company’s ongoing challenge,” the outlet said. “Maybe Iger should focus on building a better board first, so he can really get the help he needs to get out of the job.”


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