In a move that shocked Hollywood, Bob Iger, one of the most prominent CEOs in The Walt Disney Company’s history, is back to once again run the media empire.
Bob Chapek, who replaced Iger in 2020 as CEO, is stepping down immediately.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over the course of his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” Disney Chairman Susan Arnold said in a statement Sunday evening. “The Board of Directors concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely positioned to lead the company through this pivotal period.”
The announcement, while a surprise to the media industry, comes at a time of great development for Disney. The company is emerging from a lackluster earnings report that showed growth for its streaming endeavors. However, this came at a great cost. Disney’s streaming business lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter. This report caused Disney shares to plunge after a year of stagnation into poor performance.
Chapek led the company through the pandemic, one of the most turbulent periods in its nearly 100-year history, but ultimately Disney decided its future was in better hands with Iger.
Outside of the pandemic, Chapek had a short but wagon stint as Disney’s president. Chapek, who served as chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products before taking over as Iger, has found himself dealing with wage issues with Scarlett Johansson, one of the company’s biggest stars, as well as Disney’s battles with Florida and its employees, over the controversial state bill. which restricts certain LGBTQ topics in the classroom.
Disney stocks have also taken a hit lately. It’s currently down about 40% this year. Shares rose more than 8% in pre-market trading Monday as investors cheered the news of Iger’s return.
Iger has almost legendary status as the captain of Disney (DIS). He spent 15 years as CEO and was instrumental in acquiring major brands like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, home of Star Wars. Iger also closed a $71 billion deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox and kick-started the Disney (DIS) broadcasting revolution with the creation of Disney (DIS)+ in November 2019.
He remained at Disney as CEO directing the company’s creative efforts. He officially left the company after nearly 50 years at the end of last year.
Disney said Sunday that Iger has agreed to serve as CEO for two years with “a mandate from the board of directors to set strategic direction for renewed growth and work closely with the board in developing a successor to lead the company upon completion of his term.”
The move is also surprising since Chapek just renewed his contract. The company’s board of directors has voted unanimously to extend Chapek’s contract as CEO for another three years, the company said in June. Chapek’s new contract began in July and was scheduled to run through 2025.
Also, Iger appears to have retired due to his legacy as one of Disney’s most prominent and successful executives. Now, he’s back.
“I am extremely optimistic about the future of this great company and I am delighted that the Board of Directors has asked me to return as its CEO,” Iger said in a statement on Sunday. “Disney and its unparalleled brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the world — and especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration.”
Egger added that he was “deeply honored to be asked to lead this incredible team once again, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unparalleled, bold storytelling.”
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