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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Dear Bob: When Are You Leaving and Who Will Replace You?

by Ray Keating
August 28, 2019

Dear Bob,

Your tenure at the helm of Disney has been impressive. And I’m not just talking about the acquisitions of Pixar, Star Wars and Indiana Jones (i.e., LucasFilm), Marvel, and the Fox assets, but also the incredible investments being made in the Disney theme parks, and the bold move into streaming with Disney+, not to mention Hulu and ESPN+.

It’s just a fact that in terms of the history of the company, while each tenure was not without setbacks and poor choices, three names have made unmistakable, positive marks as Disney CEOs – Walt Disney, Michael Eisner, and you. 

Now, having said all of this, I’m not the only one wondering who is going to replace you at the end of 2021, when you’re supposed to retire.

First, I emphasize the “supposed to” because you’ve put off stepping down before – actually doing so four times. And I would argue that you should do so one more time. It would be fitting for you to still be at the helm in 2023, when the company marks its 100thanniversary. Retire at the close of 2023, and hand over the reins to the next CEO at that time. Of course, there’s no reason that the next CEO cannot be named prior to that point – indeed, most investors obviously would expect that to happen as a signal of a smooth transition.

Second, whether you step down in 2021 or 2023, who is your replacement going to be? I know the board thinks it calls the shots on this, and technically, it does, but no doubt, your voice will carry weight. 

Talk swirling around two people grabs my attention. One is Kevin Mayer, the current chairman of direct-to-consumer and international division.  After all, much of the foreseeable future of the company rides on the success of Disney+. If Disney+ rocks it early on, then Mayer would be a natural next CEO.

The second is Bob Chapek, head of parks, experiences and products since 2015. Given the role and revenue raked in by the parks, and taking note of the investments and transformations going on just at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Chapek has to be a serious contender.

Well, investors and fans await the decision. 

But again, I think it would be fitting for you and your successor to be standing together on October 16, 2023, celebrating the 100thanniversary of the Walt Disney Company, and then either Mayer or Chapek kicking off his time as CEO at the close of that year.

Thanks for the consideration, and have a magical day!

Ray Keating

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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