Disney thriller: World’s biggest studio axes current CEO as former chief returns


The Walt Disney Company board of directors (re)appoints Robert A. Iger as chief executive officer

The Walt Disney Company has shocked the entertainment world as it flips CEOs.

The board of the world’s biggest studio announced today that Robert A. Iger is returning to lead Disney as chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Bob Iger, who spent more than four decades at the company, including 15 years as its CEO, 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.

Iger succeeds Bob Chapek, who has stepped down from his position.

“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 added.

Commenting on his return, Iger said: “I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the board 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. I am deeply honoured to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivalled, bold storytelling.”

During his 15 years as CEO, from 2005 to 2020, Iger helped build Disney into one of the world’s most successful media and entertainment companies.

He expanded Disney with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox and increased the company’s market capitalisation fivefold during his time as CEO. Iger continued to direct Disney’s creative endeavours until his departure as executive chairman last December, and the company’s robust pipeline of content is a testament to his leadership and vision.

The return of Iger comes less than a year after he stepped down as executive chairman. It also follows the recent Disney earnings results which revealed steep losses for the Disney+ streaming service. During 2022 Disney seemed to stagger from one crisis to another as the entertainment industry, particularly the movie and theme park businesses, opened up after being savaged by Covid.

The announcement was made late on Sunday in the US, with much anticipation about how the market will react after Disney shares start trading tomorrow. The stock has dropped close to 40% across 2022 and hit a 52-week low earlier this month.

Top photo: News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and Disney’s Bob Iger in 2019 when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox

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