The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Iger back on top in a Disney plot twist that few saw coming


BURBANK >> Bob Iger, the enterprisi­ng entertainm­ent executive who brought Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel under the Disney marquee and challenged the streaming dominance of Netflix, will replace his handpicked successor, CEO Bob Chapek, whose two-year tenure has been marked by clashes, missteps and a weakening financial performanc­e.

The stunning developmen­t comes two weeks after Disney’s quarterly financial performanc­e fell well short of Wall Street expectatio­ns on both profit and revenue, a rarity, sending shares tumbling 12%. Shares of The Walt Disney Co. are down 40% this year.

“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,” Iger, 71, wrote in an email to employees.

The tumult atop Disney came quickly with reports that Iger was first approached by board members about a possible return Friday.

Iger separated completely with Disney near the end of last year after remaining onboard for two years as executive chairman, helping to guide Chapek and to guarantee a smooth transition.

That transition was anything but smooth and on Sunday, Iger agreed to a two year contract to redirect Disney’s trajectory and to help find a new chief executive.

Iger was Disney’s public face for 15 years as chief executive before handing the job off to Chapek in 2020, a stretch in which he compiled a string of victories lauded in the entertainm­ent industry and by Disney fans.

Chapek oversaw Disney during one of the most challengin­g periods in company history that began with a pandemic and ended, at least under Chapek’s rule, with spiraling inflation.

But his time as chief executive was also marked by what many saw as unforced errors for a company that, under Iger, appeared could do no wrong.

The company became embroiled in a public fight with Gov. Ron DeSantis, after Disney’s home state of Florida enacted a measure that forbids instructio­n on sexual orientatio­n and gender identity in elementary schools up to third grade, a rule critics dubbed the “don’t say gay” law.

Chapek remained silent publicly at first, and that ignited an employee revolt. When Chapek then denounced the measure, it kicked off a political backlash with conservati­ve lawmakers and media outlets pushing boycotts and labeling Disney as too “woke.”

Months later Chapek fired Peter Rice, the chairman of Disney General Entertainm­ent Television, among the most highly regarded television executives in the industry. The firing stunned Hollywood and fueled new criticism from investors over Chapek’s leadership.

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