In a move that many in Hollywood and inside Disney have been projecting, Disney CEO Bob Iger is extending his term in the role to remain at the company through December 31, 2026.
Previously when Iger returned to Disney in November, he made it clear that he would only be back at the company for two years (with plans to leave in 2024) to right the ship and establish a new successor. Now, Iger has extended his stint to be 4 years long. Iger had left the company in 2021 after handing the keys to CEO Bob Chapek. Chapek was fired in November and Iger returned.
When Iger returned to Disney, he stated that one of his top priorities was identifying a successor. He repeatedly said that he would stay for only two years before passing the baton. Over the past six months internal jockeying and discussions in the press over who that next CEO would be have been ongoing. There was no clear choice – Head of TV Dana Walden, Head of the studio Alan Bergman, and Head of the Parks Josh D’Amaro were the commonly discussed internal candidates.
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What Disney Is Saying About Iger Remaining CEO
Disney shared quotes from their Chairman of the Board and from Bob Iger, himself.
“Time and again, Bob has shown an unparalleled ability to successfully transform Disney to drive future growth and financial returns, earning him a reputation as one of the world’s best CEOs,” said Mark G. Parker, Chairman, The Walt Disney Company. “Bob has once again set Disney on the right strategic path for ongoing value creation, and to ensure the successful completion of this transformation while also allowing ample time to position a new CEO for long-term success, the Board determined it is in the best interest of shareholders to extend his tenure, and he has agreed to our request to remain Chief Executive Officer through the end of 2026.”
“Since my return to Disney just seven months ago, I’ve examined virtually every facet of our businesses to fully understand the tremendous opportunities before us, as well as the challenges we’ve been facing from the broader economic environment and the tectonic shifts in our industry. On my first day back, we began making important and sometimes difficult decisions to address some existing structural and efficiency issues, and despite the challenges, I believe Disney’s long-term future is incredibly bright,” said Iger. “But there is more to accomplish before this transformative work is complete, and because I want to ensure Disney is strongly positioned when my successor takes the helm, I have agreed to the Board’s request to remain CEO for an additional two years. The importance of the succession process cannot be overstated, and as the Board continues to evaluate a highly qualified slate of internal and external candidates, I remain intensely focused on a successful transition.”
Why is Iger extending his Disney CEO tenure?
Even though Iger stated continually that he would only be CEO for two years, people close to him and in the company doubted his tenure would only last that long. In his first stint as CEO, his contract was extended numerous times.
Though he was greeted last November as a savior, the last six months have been difficult for Iger and Disney. There are very real problems that the company is currently faced with. Streaming is no longer viewed by Wall Street as the replacement for cable revenues that it once was, Disney movies are not landing at the box office with lackluster results for Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and Pixar’s Elemental, and the writer’s strike is ongoing and the actors strike is potentially upcoming. Iger needs to understand if the problems Lucasfilm and Pixar are structural and figure out how to adapt their filmmaking for a world where not as many people may go to the box office. Add in the Ron DeSantis debacle in Florida and this is a very full plate.
The Disney theme parks remain the beacon of hope among the difficult slate of challenges ahead for Disney and Iger. Even with that said, some are worried that the recently announced Walt Disney World discounts are signs of an expected slowdown in attendance at the theme parks. Even with that potential slowdown, Disney sees the theme parks as a key part of their longterm strategy and a key differentiator from other media companies in Hollywood. Only Disney and Universal (which are battling it out in attendance growth) have theme park businesses in addition to their media businesses. As a quick aside – these problems in other areas of the business will likely drive even further investment into the Disney theme parks. Remember, Disney has already announced that over $17 billion will be invested in Walt Disney World in the next 10 years.
In his time back at Disney he has won a contentious proxy battle with a shareholder, cut over $5.5 billion in expenses (partially from 7,000 layoffs), and worked to make the Disney streaming services profitable. He also encouraged changes at the Disney theme parks, pushing for the Disney theme park leadership to make the parks more affordable and easier to visit for park guests by rolling back Chapek-era policies.
These problems, the lack of an obvious successor, and Iger’s key desire to leave a strong legacy at the company all likely played into the fact that Iger will remain as CEO.
Contrast the recent Disney problems with Iger’s previous “last year” as CEO in 2019 when over seven movies passed $1 Billion (not one Disney film has yet this year), Disney Plus launched to a shockingly high subscriber number, Disney opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Iger was on his book tour. It is easy to see why Iger isn’t ready to leave Disney again and would like to regain his seat as venerated “CEO of our generation” status before leaving Disney.
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