by Ray Keating
February 25, 2020
The Walt Disney Company made a surprise announcement today that the Board of Directors named Bob Chapek Chief Executive Officer effective immediately.
In a statement, Disney reported that Bob Iger “assumes the role of Executive Chairman and will direct the Company’s creative endeavors, while leading the Board and providing the full benefit of his experience, leadership and guidance to ensure a smooth and successful transition through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021.”
The timing wasn’t the only surprise, however, as many had assumed that Kevin Mayer, the chairman of direct-to-consumer and international division, would be named Iger’s successor given Mayer’s role with Disney+. Chapek was head of parks, experiences and products since 2015.
Regarding Chapek, Iger stated: “Bob will be the seventh CEO in Disney’s nearly 100-year history, and he has proven himself exceptionally qualified to lead the company into its next century. Throughout his career, Bob has led with integrity and conviction, always respecting Disney’s rich legacy while at the same time taking smart, innovative risks for the future. His success over the past 27 years reflects his visionary leadership and the strong business growth and stellar results he has consistently achieved in his roles at Parks, Consumer Products and the Studio. Under Bob’s leadership as CEO, our portfolio of great businesses and our amazing and talented people will continue to serve the company and its shareholders well for years to come.”
Chapek said: “I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world, and to lead our exceptionally talented and dedicated cast members and employees. Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team. I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”
Over the coming 22 months, the two men will be working together, allowing for a smooth transition period from one Bob to the next Bob. As Iger put it: “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the company’s creative endeavors.”
Susan Arnold, independent Lead Director of the Disney Board, added, “Mr. Chapek will also benefit from the guidance of one of the world’s most esteemed and successful business leaders, Bob Iger.”
During a press call, Iger was asked: Why now? He said that the time was right for him to get everything aligned on the creative side of the business before he leaves at the end of 2021, while Chapek takes over the day-to-day management. It was apparent from Iger’s response that completing the Fox deal, and setting up ESPN+ and Disney+ were essential as to the timing on this move.
One question to be answered relates to Kevin Mayer: Will he stay or leave in coming months given that Chapek got the CEO spot?
While Chapek has long experience with the Disney company, he has big shoes to fill, following Bob Iger and previously, Michael Eisner, who rank as the two CEOs with the greatest impact on The Walt Disney Company – that is, after Walt Disney, of course.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at email@example.com.