Sydney, 2022-11-21 09:40:00. Disney returns: Former CEO Bob Iger returns to the company
Burbank, California –
Bob Iger, the enterprising entertainment executive who brought Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel under Disney’s marquee and challenged Netflix’s streaming dominance, will replace his handpicked successor, CEO Bob Chapek, whose two-year tenure has been marked by clashes, missteps and missteps. Poor financial performance.
The stunning development comes two weeks after Disney’s quarterly financial performance fell short of Wall Street expectations for both earnings and revenue, which is a rarity, sending shares down 12%. Shares of The Walt Disney Company are down 40% this year.
The company’s stock jumped 8% at the opening bell Monday, with Iger’s appointment effective immediately.
“With an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and I must admit a little surprise — I am writing to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as CEO,” Iger, 71, wrote in an email to staff.
Turmoil at the Disney summit came quickly with reports that Iger was first approached by board members about a possible return on Friday.
Iger completely parted ways with Disney near the end of last year after staying at the company for two years as CEO, helping guide Chapek and ensuring a smooth transition.
The transition wasn’t smooth, and on Sunday, Iger agreed to a two-year contract to redirect Disney’s path and to help find a new CEO.
Iger was the public face of Disney for 15 years as CEO before handing the job over to Chapek in 2020, a stretch during which he’s compiled a string of wins that has been lauded by the entertainment industry and Disney fans.
Chapek oversaw Disney through one of the most challenging periods in the company’s history that began with a pandemic and ended, at least under Chapek, with soaring inflation.
But his time as CEO was also marked by what many saw as the unforced errors of a company that, under Iger’s leadership, seemed to do no wrong.
The company has been embroiled in a public battle with Governor Ron DeSantis, after Disney’s home state of Florida enacted a measure banning the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools through the third grade, a rule that critics called “Don’t Say ‘Gay'”.
Chapek remained publicly silent at first, sparking an employee revolt. When Chapek denounced the action, a political backlash sparked opposition from conservative lawmakers and the media, who pushed for a boycott and called Disney “woke up” as well.
Months later, Chapek fired Peter Rice, chairman of Disney General Entertainment Television, among the most high-profile television executives in the industry. The firing stunned Hollywood and sparked fresh criticism from investors about Chapek’s leadership.
It was very unusual for conflicts at Disney to spill into the public domain, but rightly or wrongly, it seemed to be a feature of Chapek’s reign.
A feud with a major Hollywood star was made public last year after Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over her pay for the Black Widow movie. Johansson’s potential earnings were tied to the box office performance of the 2021 Marvel movie, which the company released simultaneously in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service for a $30 rental.
Over the past several weeks, more doubts have been raised about Chapek’s cost-cutting plans, including reports of plans to lay off a large number of workers, while Disney followers have been alarmed by price hikes at Disney parks.
“The Board of Directors concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industrial transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely positioned to lead the company through this pivotal period,” Disney Chairman Susan Arnold said in a prepared statement.
Arnold thanked Chapek for leading the company through the pandemic.
Wall Street applauded Iger’s return.
“We think there is little doubt that investors will applaud the move,” Citi analyst Jason Bazinet wrote. “The Street loves Mr. Iger as much as we do. We view his return as an unblemished positive.”
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