Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
In a shocking Sunday night announcement, the Walt Disney Company has changed chief executives, bringing back longtime CEO Bob Iger to replace Bob Chapek.
Chapek had taken over the CEO role from Iger in February 2020 and had only this past summer been given a three-year contract extension. However, Disney reported a $1.5 billion loss for the Disney+ streaming service and missed on Wall Street estimates for its theme parks in its latest quarterly earnings. Despite Chapek projecting optimism, CNBC’s Jim Cramer called for him to be fired and Disney began planning layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.
Chapek won’t be overseeing those plans, as he’s out effective immediately. The 71-year-old Iger, having only left Disney 11 months ago, has agreed to return to the role for two more years.
“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, chair of the Disney board, a position she’ll retain despite Iger’s return. “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.”
In a statement, Iger said, “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.”
For diehard fans of Disney theme parks, Chapek’s departure is likely to be celebrated.
He was often portrayed by bloggers as being concerned only with increasing prices at the parks, while deemphasizing customer service and investments in new attractions. Pete Werner of The DIS repeatedly referred to Chapek as “Lex Luthor,” and WDW News Today’s Tom Corless has continued to say it has been “at war” with the company since Chapek became Disney’s parks chief in 2015 prior to becoming CEO.
His tenure was marked by some legitimate controversies, however. In 2021, he was on the defensive after Disney was sued by actress Scarlett Johansson over lost profits for its hybrid release of “Black Widow; Disney eventually settled for a reported $40 million. More recently, he drew criticism from both liberal Disney employees and conservative Florida politicians for the company’s initial silence, then condemnation, of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
In retrospect, an earlier report from Business Insider may have been the first hint at Iger’s return. A July 2022 story said Iger regretted both his decision to step down and the selection of Chapek as his successor.