Bob Iger is back.
Disneyin a shock announcement late Sunday, said it had reappointed Iger as CEO, effective immediately, after Iger’s handpicked successor as CEO, Bob Chapek, was criticized for his management of the entertainment giant.
“It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a little astonishment — that I am writing to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as CEO,”[ads1]; Iger wrote to employees in a email, which was obtained by CNBC.
The dramatic upheaval comes 11 months after Iger left Disney and days after Chapek said he planned to cut costs at the company, which had been weighed down by high costs at its Disney+ streaming service. The company’s earnings report earlier this month fared significantly worse than Wall Street’s expectations. Even its theme park business, which reported a rise in revenue, delivered less than analysts had forecast.
Iger’s return also comes as legacy media companies struggle with a rapidly changing landscape, as ad dollars dry up and consumers increasingly ditch cable subscriptions in favor of streaming.
Iger will help the company’s board develop a new successor, Disney said in a release.
Chapek was named CEO in February 2020, succeeding Iger, who had previously said he would not return to the role.
Shares in Disney have fallen around 41% so far this year, as of Friday’s close. The stock hit a 52-week low on November 9.
Iger has signed on to serve 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 to develop a successor to lead the company at the completion of his period.”
The company said Chapek resigned. Shortly after Chapek took over in 2020, Covid-19 became a pandemic and forced the closure of Disney’s theme parks and for a period prevented it from releasing films in theaters. Nevertheless, the company’s shares rose in 2021, before crashing to earth in recent months.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney throughout his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Disney’s chairman. She will remain in that role.
Chapek, whose contract as CEO was extended earlier this year, planned a hiring freeze, cost-cutting and company-wide layoffs, according to a memo CNBC obtained earlier this month. The internal memo came three days after the company’s poor quarterly report.
Iger, who had been CEO of Disney for 15 years, had favored Chapek as his successor. The two eventually had a falling out, and their conflict cast a shadow over the company’s future. Chapek distanced himself from Iger with a series of decisions, including his new approach to streaming pricing for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.
Iger is a widely respected and liked figure at Disney. He oversaw their deals to buy Pixar, Lucasfilm and its “Star Wars” properties, and Marvel — all of which have become multibillion-dollar intellectual property giants.
Chapek, meanwhile, angered employees with his initial silence on the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, where the company’s Walt Disney World resort is located. He then faced backlash from Republican politicians, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for opposing it. He also received heat for his handling of the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s pay for her work in the Marvel film “Black Widow.”
Read Iger’s email to Disney employees here:
Dear Staff and Cast Members,
It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a little astonishment—that I write to you tonight with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as CEO.
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 transformation and resurgence of our parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your achievements and I am excited to embark on many new endeavors with you.
I know this company has asked so much of you over the past three years and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you’ve heard me say before, I’m an optimist and if I learned one thing from the years mine at Disney, 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, let me express my deep appreciation for all you do. Disney holds a special place in the hearts of people around the world 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.
Read Disney’s full announcement here:
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announced today that Robert A. Iger will return to lead Disney as CEO, effective immediately. Mr. Iger, who spent more than four decades at the company, including 15 years as 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 to develop a successor to lead the company at the completion of his term. Mr. Iger succeeds Bob Chapek, who has resigned from his position.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney throughout 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 positioned to lead the company through this crucial period.”
“Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, with whom he worked closely until he stepped down 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 remains unchanged, with Arnold in this capacity.
“I am extremely optimistic about the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the board to return as CEO,” Iger said. “Disney and its inimitable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the world – 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 once again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unparalleled, 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 quintupled the company’s market value during his tenure as CEO. Mr. Iger continued to lead Disney’s creative endeavors until his retirement as CEO last December, and the Company’s robust pipeline of content is a testament to his leadership and vision.”