Bob Iger. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Disney ousted chief executive Bob Chapek on Sunday and announced that it had brought back former CEO Bob Iger to once again take the reins.
The change, a dramatic turn of events for one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, was effective immediately, Disney said in a statement.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career,” Susan Arnold, chair of Disney’s board, said.
The board of directors decided that as the company “embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead.”
Chapek spent two years as CEO, a period that saw Wall Street concerned about rising expenses at the company. Disney’s stock has fallen 41 percent this year.
Iger, who previously served as Disney’s CEO for 15 years, increasing the company’s market capitalization five-fold during that period, has pledged to return as CEO for at least two years, the statement said.
Iger, now 71, had promoted Chapek as his replacement in 2020 but the relationship soured and by early this year the two rarely spoke.
“I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team… through unrivaled, bold storytelling,” Iger said.
Under Iger’s leadership, Disney acquired Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. It also opened its first theme park in China — the Shanghai Disney Resort — and launched the Disney+ and ESPN+ streaming services.
Chapek upset many of Disney’s 200,000 employees earlier this year with how he handled the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, where a Disney theme park is located. The law bars public schools from teaching learners in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity.
Chapek remained silent on the issue until pressure grew among Disney’s employees.
The scandal prompted Florida to end Disney’s self-governing status in its Orlando theme park, which comes into effect in June 2023.
As recently as June, Disney’s board had signaled that it still supported Chapek, offering him a contract extension of three more years.
Chapek oversaw a marked increase in Disney’s total revenue to $28.7 billion for the fiscal year, which ended October 1, 2022.
But costs were also rising sharply and Chapek last week announced company-wide cost-cutting measures and said layoffs were likely.
After dealing with major challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic at the company, Chapek hit speedbumps in ramping up Disney’s streaming services.
Earlier this month, he reported an increase of 12.1 million subscribers to Disney+ — bringing its global total to 164.2 million. Disney’s Hulu and ESPN+ also added one million and 1.5 million subscribers, respectively.
But that news was tempered by increasing operating losses for streaming services, which nearly doubled to $1.47 billion last quarter.
Those numbers gave some Wall Street analysts serious concerns, and the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” show, Jim Cramer, called last week for Disney to sack Chapek and fix the company’s “balance sheet from hell.”
During Iger’s tenure, Disney produced a number of record-setting films including Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest-grossing film of all time. The company also produced “Frozen” and “Frozen 2” and Marvel’s “Black Panther.”