The company announced in a press release that Bob Iger will return as CEO of Disney, replacing current CEO Bob Chapek.
Iger is set to return for a two-year stint with a mandate for “renewed growth” and to find and groom his successor.
Iger stated that he is returning “with an incredible sensor of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement.”
“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 Disney chairman Susan Arnold in a statement.
“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.”
Iger chose Chapek to succeed him as CEO, but their personalities clashed quickly. Iger was known as a talent- and creative-friendly CEO, whereas Chapek focused on streaming, especially after the flu decimated Disney’s theme park and theatrical distribution businesses.
However, under Chapek, Disney initially failed to respond to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and chastised Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson over her streaming vs.
theatrical distribution lawsuit. And, according to The Hollywood Reporter, during a Disney retreat, Iger reportedly urged the company not to rely too heavily on data to make decisions, which some interpreted as a dig at Chapek.
Disney+ has 235 million subscribers (including ESPN and Hulu) under Chapek, but the company lost $1.5 billion on streaming in the last quarter.
Its market capitalization has also decreased from $257.6 billion in Iger’s previous full year to $163.5 billion. However, much of that fall is due to pandemics, as movie theaters and Disney parks were forced to close.
The move is surprising given that Disney had extended Bob Chapek’s contract for another three years (no comment from Chapel was available in the press release).
Meanwhile, as Disney CEO, Iger has a near-mythical status, having presided over the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox.
That legacy, however, will be put to the test as Disney faces difficult times — the company recently announced plans to freeze hiring and said layoffs are likely.