Disney has fired its CEO Bob Chapek following a series of woke controversies which cratered the firm’s share price – and sensationally-replaced him with his retired predecessor Bob Iger.
The company’s board of directors tabbed Iger to ‘replace’ Chapek Sunday night, The Wall Street Journal reported, putting an end to the 11-month reign of the new CEO who was once hailed as the Disney heir apparent.
The shakeup comes as an abrupt return to power for Iger, who, prior to stepping down 11 months ago, had served as Disney’s head exec for more than 15 years.
Iger, 71, had long pegged Chapek as his successor, handing him over the keys to his his kingdom in February – despite a slew of false starts that saw him continue to steer the company for more than two years after airing plans to retire – reportedly to the frustration of a waiting Chapek.
At the time, Iger, who famously caused ructions on his way out by forcefully speaking out against Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill, asserted his retirement was permanent, and that he would not return to the role.
Now, it seems as those words were somewhat wayward, with Iger set to again take the reigns. It comes as the company has seen in share price plummet under Chapek, who earned a total salary of $26 million in 2021.
The company’s poor performance under Chapek has been blamed on a variety of factors – particularly his mishandling and subsequent support of the bill, which limits LGBTQ discussions in Florida schools for students in third grade and below.
Iger has worked for Disney for more than four decades, with 15 of those years coming in the company’s hot seat – which is now hotter than ever.
Bob Iger is now the CEO of Disney – after he quit the role just 11 months ago
Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, announced the change in a statement Sunday night, in which she thanked Chapek, 62, for his short-lived service in the role.
‘We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,’ the statement read.
However, instead of rescuing the company’s flailing bottom lines, Chapek’s not so glittering tenure as CEO saw the company’s profits fall even further over the past year – when many experts posited it would recover.
Since losing more than $10billion during the pandemic, shares of the company have fallen about 41 percent so far this year, as of Friday’s close.
The stock hit a 52-week low on November 9, less than two weeks before the company’s shock announcement, where brass asserted that Iger ‘is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period.’
The press release cited that Iger already ‘has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago.’
Also influencing the company’s decision, according to the statement, was Iger’s illustrious career at the entertainment giant that saw him build it into ‘one of the world’s most successful and admired media and entertainment companies’ in the world.
It further cited the re-crowned CEO’s ‘strategic vision focused on creative excellence, technological innovation and international growth.’
It added that Iger ‘is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide – all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.’
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he initially chose not to speak out against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill to balance the needs of customers and employees
In an email Sunday evening, Iger confirmed his return to staffers – in a pointed correspondence that saw him make no mention of his nixed successor.
‘Dear Fellow Employees and Cast Members, 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,’ the email, obtained by The Ankler, read.
‘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 reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.
‘I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist,’ the CEO, who sparked controversy in 2019 when it was revealed he earned $66 million a year – about 1,000 times the salary of a typical Disney employee – wrote.
”Aand if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty-perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty-our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible.’
The notice would then add that staffers would be hearing more about the shifting arrangment and what it entails in the coming weeks.
‘In the meantime,’ Chapek wrote, ‘allow me to express my deep gratitude for all that you do.
‘Disney holds a special place in the hearts of people around the globe 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.’
Chapek previously landed himself in hot water last spring when he took no public stance on Ron DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay bill, which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade.
According to an internal memo circulated at the time, Chapek felt the company could better advocate for inclusivity through its content and by working with legislators behind the scenes.
The memo’s revelations were met with outrage by Disney staff, who called Chapek’s decision weak and disappointing. Chapek later apologized in March, publicly decried the bill, announced Disney had paused all its political donations within Florida.
Chapek explained he wanted Disney to be brand that could ‘rise above’ the political fray, and serve as a beacon of optimism and harmony in the world.
‘What we try to do is be everything to everybody,’ Chapek said at the time. ‘That tends to be very difficult because we’re The Walt Disney Company.’
Shares of Disney have fallen about 41% so far this year, as of Friday’s close. The stock hit a 52-week low November 9
‘We certainly don’t want to get caught up in any political subterfuge, but at the same time we also realize that we want to represent a brighter tomorrow for families of all types, regardless of how they define themselves,’ he said.
After Chapek announced the halting of Florida political donations in his apology, Florida governor Ron DeSantis responded by beginning the legislative process of stripping away Disney’s special zoning status – known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Reedy Creek comprises Disney World and its surrounding properties. Disney and the Florida government founded it as an independent jurisdiction 55-years ago, allowing Disney to operate as a county government does. It is run by a board selected by Disney and other companies on the land.
After DeSantis’ sudden decision, residents of the surrounding counties which would absorb Reedy Creeks debt sued the government,
But Disney quickly hit back at DeSantis, saying that there is a clause in its original contract that stipulates state or local governments will be responsible for its $1 billion bond debt when it is dissolved.
Chapek landed in hot water last spring when he took no public stance on Ron DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay bill, which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade
Full transcript of Disney statement outlining Bob Iger’s return to CEO position
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announced today that Robert A. Iger is returning to lead Disney as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Mr. Iger, who spent more than four decades at the Company, including 15 years as its 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 in developing a successor to lead the Company at the completion of his term. Mr. Iger succeeds Bob Chapek, who has stepped down from his position.
“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, Chairman of the Board. “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.”
“Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure 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 of the Board remains unchanged, with Ms. Arnold serving in that capacity.
“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Mr. Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most 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 again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, 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 increased the Company’s market capitalization fivefold during his time as CEO. Mr. Iger continued to direct Disney’s creative endeavors until his departure as Executive Chairman last December, and the Company’s robust pipeline of content is a testament to his leadership and vision.”