Disney Debuts C-Suite Drama With the Sudden Return of Bob Iger
The Future. In case you haven’t checked Twitter, Apple News, or those free newspapers at Starbucks, Bob Iger is back in as the Big Cheese at the Mouse House. Iger now comes in when many of his past successes as CEO are being tested (Disney+ needs to make more money, while content silos like Lucasfilm and Marvel need to fight off franchise fatigue), Hulu is about to come up for sale for a lot, and upcoming, high-stakes Hollywood union negotiations will require financial compromise. In other words, these may be his most challenging years on the job yet.
A Tale of Two Bobs
Here’s how Robert Allen Iger succeeded his successor, Robert Alan Chapek (you can’t make this stuff up), as the CEO of Disney.
- Discontent had already been brewing at Chapek’s performance, including a corporate restructuring that took power away from creative execs, a battle with Scarlett Johannson over compensation for Black Widow, and controversy over the handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
- But the Nov. 11 quarterly earnings call where he in the DTC division, a sudden call for cost-cutting and potential layoffs, and the resulting stock plunge is what broke the camel’s back for the company’s board.
- So chairwoman Susan Arnold reached out to Iger roughly a week ago to see if he would be interested in returning. Although he had taken on a few advisory roles and was in discussions for a position at RedBird Capital, Iger could never really let Disney go.
- So a deal was struck, and Chapek received a call midday Sunday that he was out. That night, the Iger announcement was made, which both shocked and elated Disney employees.
And yes, the stock is up.
The Bob is Back
Iger has wasted no time in making changes.
- He dismantled Chapek’s Disney Media & Entertainment Division, which centralized the company’s creative and marketing decisions under executive Kareem Daniel.
- He then fired Daniel and set up an exec team to develop a new distribution structure that puts “decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs.”
And besides righting the ship, Iger’s two-year contract — expect that to get renewed; he pushed off retirement four times — calls for him to groom his new, new successor. Just like much of its film slate, call it a Disney reboot.