The Walt Disney Co. is experiencing a major and very unexpected upheaval to the company as current CEO Bob Chapek steps down from his position and is replaced by his predecessor Bob Iger.
The news was revealed by Disney’s board of directors on Sunday. The change is effective immediately, as Iger returns to a role he only vacated in 2020. Iger’s new contract will see him serve as general manager for the next two years.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney during his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Chairman Susan Arnold in a statement. “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 pivotal period.”
The news comes just days after Chapek announced a new series of cost-cutting measures to company management, including layoffs, a targeted hiring freeze and travel restrictions. Disney’s recent quarterly earnings report showed troubling signs for the company, including a loss of nearly $1.5 billion in its streaming division, sending the company’s stock price down to a two-year low.
“I am fully aware that this will be a difficult process for many of you and your teams,” Chapek said. “We will have to make difficult and uncomfortable decisions. But that is exactly what leadership requires, and I thank you in advance for stepping up at this important time. Our company has weathered many challenges during our 100-year history, and I have no doubt that we will achieve our goals and we will create a more nimble company better suited to the environment of tomorrow.”
Iger previously served as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. from 2005 to 2020. During his tenure, Iger oversaw a period of massive expansion for the company, including the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox, as well as the launch of the Disney+ streaming service. Chapek previously served as head of parks, experiences and products and as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts before being promoted to CEO in February 2020.
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Chapko’s short time on the job was marked by various pandemic-related issues and a significant degree of confusion, starting with a major feud between Iger and Chapko. Chapek also criticized his handling of the pay dispute between the studio and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, as well as his initial response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“I am extremely optimistic about the future of this great company and am thrilled that the board has asked me to return as its CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of many people around the world — especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to the 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 of creative excellence to inspire generations through unparalleled, bold storytelling.”
It’s clear Disney’s board hopes to return to the stability and growth marked by Iger’s previous tenure as CEO. However, the company continues to face major economic headwinds and fierce competition in the streaming market, so it remains to be seen whether Chapk’s second stint will prove successful.
Do you think Disney management made the right call? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Jesse is a moderate writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket following @jschedeen on Twitter.
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