Bob Iger / Bob Chapek Intrigue ROUNDUP of the Best NEW Details From the Coverage

On Sunday of this week the entire Disney community was shocked by the immediate return of Bob Iger to the role of Disney CEO. Bob Chapek stepped down immediately.

In the days since that announcement (which you can read in full at the bottom of this page) there have been dozens, perhaps hundreds, of news reports that provided additional new specific details on the time leading up to the Bob switch and recent months at Disney. My vision has gone blurry reading the onslaught of coverage from every mainstream and trades news source.

Rather than recapping each of these interesting quotes and tidbits in its own article I have captured the most interesting quotes in a bullet pointed list below. Hopefully this will save you the need of re-reading the details of Chapek's tenure and the Iger/Chapek relationship for the tenth time.

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Key New Details from Bob Iger Returns Coverage

  • “Christine M. McCarthy, Disney’s well-regarded chief financial officer, directly told at least one board member that she lacked confidence in Mr. Chapek. “He irretrievably lost the room,” the leader of a Disney unit said on Monday.” (NYTimes)
  • “According to three people briefed on the matter, Mr. Chapek was privately told that he was heir apparent as early as 2018, much earlier than initially realized, and so Mr. Iger had ample time to train him.” (NYTimes)
  • “Bob Chapek recently suggested in an interview at a Wall Street Journal conference that adults didn’t watch the company’s animation. Some in the animation team felt the remark demeaned the value of their content, which has been a staple of the company since its founding.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • Disney is first airing some shows that were meant to be Disney+ originals on other networks so that they can shift the cost of production and marketing those shows from the streaming service to make the financials look better. (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Two previous candidates to succeed Mr. Iger, Thomas O. Staggs and Kevin Mayer, left Disney and are now running a start-up, Candle Media. A person close to Disney’s board had reached out to them this year with a hypothetical question: Would one or both be interested in returning to run Disney? Mr. Staggs and Mr. Mayer demurred, according to two people familiar with the matter, adding that any deal would have required Disney to acquire Candle Media and needed Mr. Chapek’s approval, which he was unlikely to give.” (NYTimes)
  • “When the end came for Chapek, even a Disney-connected source who is not a Chapek fan expressed shock at the way it went down. “He didn’t get to say goodbye or say, ‘I’ve decided to step down,’” this person says. Reminded of reports that Rice had likewise been unceremoniously dismissed following his own brief meeting with Chapek, this person adds, “I bet you it broke Chapek’s record of firing Rice in seven minutes. They called [Chapek] and said, ‘You’re out. Our lawyers will call your lawyers.’” (Hollywood Reporter)

  • “[Chapek's] first major rupture with Mr. Iger came just weeks [after Chapek became CEO]. Mr. Iger wanted to delay any Covid-related staff cuts until the Cares Act, a massive spending bill being debated in Congress meant to blunt the pandemic’s economic impact, was signed into law. That way, laid-off Disney employees could take advantage of its protections, Mr. Iger argued, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Chapek wanted to move more quickly with layoffs, these people said…Mr. Iger overruled Mr. Chapek, these people said, and convinced the board that it was better to wait.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “There are senior executives at Disney who could be groomed into chief executive material, including Dana Walden, Disney’s television chief, and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman. But neither is quite ready, a person close to the board said.” (NYTimes)
  • “Bob Chapek was also expected to attend [the Elton John Disney Plus Live Concert] and the company had planned for him to introduce Mr. John from the stage before the concert, according to two people with knowledge of the plans, though it isn’t clear if Mr. Chapek attended, they said.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Disney employees said they were baffled by Mr. Iger’s Sunday email and immediately began asking if the message to employees was real or if it came from a hacked email account.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Bob Iger will be paid an annual base salary of $1 million with a possible 100% annual bonus. He'll also “be granted a long-term incentive award having a target value of $25 million” for each fiscal year in the agreement. His term is currently set to end December 31, 2024.” (Scott Gustin via Twitter)
  • There were concerns about Chapek as far back as a Board meeting in June. “At that time, sources say, some on the board wanted to replace Chapek and appoint one of their own, Nike chairman Mark Parker, as interim CEO while conducting a search for a new permanent leader. But a source says Parker declined the role even as the idea arose more than once. Aside from Parker, these sources say, General Motors executive Mary Barra also advocated replacing Chapek at the June meeting.” (Hollywood Reporter)

Below, read the original news story and analysis of Bob Iger's return to Disney.

In a shocking Sunday night move, Disney is re-installing Bob Iger as CEO effective immediately. Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek will step down.

“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.”

Chapek served as Disney CEO since February 2020 through the thick of the COVID pandemic which brought transformative outside forces to the entire media business. Disney was hit particularly hard with the closure of the theme parks and dramatic reduction of the theatrical business. He was also saddled with an already existing plan to invest heavily into streaming content and the expansion of the Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu bundle offerings. Chapek recently had his contract extended for three years this summer which is one reason this announcement is so surprising.

We are still waiting for more details on the the why and when of this move. One thing I do know for sure – I will be waiting anxiously for the DisneyWar book  (the book covered Michael Eisner's years as Disney CEO) equivalent that covers these two years of Disney during the pandemic.

We don't yet know the impacts of Iger's return though reports have stated that he has been at odds with many of Chapek's decisions including the consolidation of all media distribution into one division and the handling of the political “Don't Say Gay” bill situation in Florida. Many theme park fans are celebrating Iger's return as the end of many policies caused by COVID and the large debt load that company has to pay down. A word of warning, do not expect all of these systems to change overnight or at all. Disney is a very large company and though Iger is disappointed with the public perception of the company, he does not have a magic wand that can transform the company back to pre-COVID. Disney is an ocean liner that takes a lot of time to turn.

Interestingly Bob Iger will not again be named Chairman of the board and instead the company will continue to be led by an independent chair. This is a notable difference from the last arrangement and puts a specific emphasis on the fact that Iger is really back in the interim to setup the company for success.

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Over the years Bob Iger has attempted to position a number of different successors. During one bakeoff between Jay Rasulo and Tom Staggs, Iger had the two executives swap positions between CFO and Chairman, Parks & Resorts. Staggs won that round and Iger elevated him to Chief Operating Officer. Staggs was let go from Disney (read a great NYTimes piece for some of that palace intrigue) in 2016 when Bob Iger decided to extend his tenure. Another bakeoff was between Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products and Kevin Mayer, the Chairman of Direct to Consumer and International. Iger eventually selected Bob Chapek as successor and crowned him the next CEO. We will be watching closely as Disney shuffles executives in the coming weeks to see who will be on the short list of internal groomed candidates for the CEO position.

It will be interesting to see which executives return along with Iger and if there will be any new outside hires that could eventually take on the CEO role. As we explain below, Iger's time as CEO will be limited to two years.

Details on Bob Iger Return

Bob Iger had previously been CEO of the company for 15 years before retiring in 2020. Iger will return to the company for two years with a mandate from the Board to “set the strategic direction for renewed growth and work closely with the Board in developing a succesor to lead the Company at the completion of his term”.

You can read the full press release from Disney about Iger's return below:

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announced today that Robert A. Iger is returning to lead Disney as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Mr. 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. Mr. 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 said.

The position of Chairman of the Board remains unchanged, with Ms. Arnold serving in that capacity.

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Mr. Iger said. “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 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.”

During his 15 years as CEO, from 2005 to 2020, Mr. Iger helped build Disney into one of the world’s most successful and admired media and entertainment companies with a strategic vision focused on creative excellence, technological innovation and international growth. He expanded on Disney’s legacy of unparalleled storytelling with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox and increased the Company’s market capitalization fivefold during his time as CEO. Mr. Iger continued to direct Disney’s creative endeavors until his departure as Executive Chairman last December, and the Company’s robust pipeline of content is a testament to his leadership and vision.

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9 comments add your comment

  1. I’m not shocked, other than it took them this long to do it. Chapek was destroying the parks.

  2. greatist disney news in a long time..wish bob iger had never left.. hope its not too late to repair the damage chapekl has done… signed dinsey fan of 67 years…

  3. Hopefully, Bob Iger can return to Disney Parks and Resorts their former reputation of customer service focusing on with the experience of family fun and enjoyment within the park – not the crowded nightmares that have occurred. What’s the purpose of having reservations when capacity isn’t considered?? Further planning needed on Genie + so it is effective when rides are down – which is a frequent occurrence throughout the day…….

    Our costly adventure left us feeling that Disney Parks is greedy and was willing to do worthless ways to families already struggling….

  4. me and my wife own 10% stocks and have full confidence in mr.Iger returning.50+ years of disney with our kids growing up there from 1 and 3 on.thank you for returning.

    • bragging you have 10%. I doubt very much you have 10% of Disneyland. I have stock too but don’t brag about what I have.

  5. It is great news that Mr. Bob Iger will return to Disney. He has always been the “Special Disney Magic” that we respected and loved.

  6. This is great news hopefully Disney can get back what it stands for, the people visitors and whole spirit of what Walt wanted in his company, I truly was worried the direction it was going and considered no going back anymore.

  7. Shocked it took this long to make the obvious change that was needed. Chapek’s leadership and his team of execs should all feel the foils of their follies. They created a different Disney that will take years to repair. we own 20% stock and see this situation as an uptick now…..just now the slow crawl to being Disney again.

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