In an unexpected turn of events the Walt Disney Company fired Bob Chapek as chief executive officer on Sunday (20.11.2022), and replaced him with Bob Iger after just 11 months.
In a Sunday night email to Disney employees, Bob Iger stated it was “with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement — that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning.” See full e-mail below the article.
Bob Iger, who is now 71, has agreed to a two-year contract after the board determined that Bob Chapek had done irreparable damage to his ability to lead the Walt Disney Company. Chapeks long string of missteps resulted in the lost confidence of Wall Street, most senior Disney executives, Cast Members and fans.
Bob Iger previously served as Disney’s chief executive officer from 2005 to 2020, a term that many saw as one of the most successful in the company’s history.
After Bob Iger’s leaving Disney entirely at the end of 2021, it was rumored that Bob Chapek became “Iger’s greatest regret” as a successor.
The Disney Board has tasked Bob Iger with the correction of the company’s course and to groom a new successor.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service,” Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board said 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.”
According to the New York Times, Susan Arnold called Bob Iger on Thursday and asked him to consider returning to the Walt Disney Company.
Bob Iger has made no secret of his dismay with Bob Chapek, allegedly telling people close to him that he was “devastated” by the downward direction that Disney had taken and that Disney was losing its soul.
After a disappointing earnings call on November 8th, analysts were publicly calling for Chapek to be fired, putting pressure on the board to rectify the situation.
Disney hit Wall Street unexpectedly by reporting $1.5 billion in losses at Disney+, an increase from $630 million last year. Bob Chapek stated that higher Disney+ production, technology and marketing costs had contributed to the massive losses.
In total, Disney generated $20.15 billion in revenue in three months, falling far below analysts expectations of $21.3 billion. It’s almost unheard-of for the Walt Disney Company to miss expectations on both revenue and earnings per share.
Disney shares dropped 12 percent the next morning, in part because stakeholders were appalled by Bob Chapek’s happy-go-lucky tone while discussing the earnings report on a call with analysts. Many investors considered Bob Chapeks attitude to be tone deaf.
Disney became entangled in a heated dispute with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in March, over legislation meant to prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Bob Chapek tried to stay publicly neutral at first, which resulted in a Cast Member revolt and dismay among Disney’s LGBT+ fans. Bob Chapek then publicly denounced the bill, igniting a political firestorm within the right-wing faction.
Meanwhile many of Disney’s most dedicated theme park fans have been increasingly critical as a result of price hikes and extreme cost engineering, resulting in lower than expected in-park show quality. Disney further angered loyal fans, many of which are annual pass holders, by telling investors that theme park profits would have been even higher if not for an “unfavorable attendance mix” at its theme parks. As a result, various merchandise including T-shirts, mugs and stickers began selling online bearing the word “Unfavorables” in Disneyland’s signature typeface.
The majority of theme park fans have received the news of Chapek’s ousting and Iger’s return as a positive development.
Bob Iger stated that he was “extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the board to return as CEO.”
Bob Chapek did not respond to media requests for comment.
Bob Iger’s full e-mail below:
“Dear Fellow Employees and Cast Members,
It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility -and, I must admit, a bit of amazement -that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer.
When I look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the phenomenal reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.
I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty -perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty -our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible.
You will be hearing more from me and your leaders tomorrow and in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, allow me to express my deep gratitude for all that you do. Disney holds a special place in the hearts of people around the globe thanks to you, and your dedication to this company and its mission to bring joy to people through great storytelling is an inspiration to me every single day.
Disney’s full statement 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.”
Are you happy to see Bob Iger return to the Walt Disney Company? Let us know in the comments below.
Original feature image credit: The Walt Disney Company (Official CEO portraits modified for news article)
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