Bob Iger is back.
Disney re-appointed Iger as CEO on Sunday night, effective immediately, after previous CEO Bob Chapek came under fire for his management of the entertainment giant. Chapek was named chief executive in February 2020, succeeding Iger, who had previously said he wouldn’t return to the role.
Shares of Disney have fallen about 41% so far this year, as of Friday’s close. The stock hit a 52-week low Nov. 9.
Iger has signed on to work as CEO for two years, Disney said Sunday, “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.”
The company said Chapek stepped 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, Disney’s board chair. She will remain in that role.
The dramatic upheaval comes 11 months after Iger left the company, and days after Chapek said he planned to cut costs at the company, which had been burdened by swelling costs in its streaming service, Disney+. The company’s earnings release earlier this month vastly underperformed Wall Street’s expectations. Even its theme park business, which reported a surge in revenue, fell below what analysts had projected.
Chapek, whose contract as CEO was extended earlier this year, planned a hiring freeze, cost cuts and layoffs across the company, according to a memo CNBC obtained earlier this month. The internal memo came days after the company’s poor quarterly earnings report.
Iger, who held the CEO role for 15 years at Disney, had favored Chapek as his successor. The two ultimately had a falling out, and the shadow of their conflict cast a shadow over the company’s future.
Iger is a widely respected and liked figure at Disney. He oversaw its deals to acquire Pixar, Lucasfilm and its “Star Wars” properties and Marvel – all of which have become multi-billion-dollar intellectual property behemoths.
Chapek, meanwhile, angered employees with his initial silence about the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, where the company’s Walt Disney World resort is located. Then, he received blowback from Republican politicians, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for opposing it. He also received heat for his handling of the controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s pay for her work in the Marvel movie “Black Widow.”
Read the full Disney release here:
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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