The Walt Disney Company announced on Sunday evening that Bob Iger is returning as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately, with current CEO Bob Chapek stepping down.
It’s a stunning and unexpected move, announced by the Disney Board. “We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” Chairman of the Board Susan Arnold said in a statement. “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.”
The board noted that this is a two-year term, with the understanding that during that time the Board will focus on identifying Iger’s successor. That’s not the first time that has happened – that’s what happened with Chapek, after all, after Iger kept delaying his retirement – but they will presumably have learned a few things about how to do it after this recent attempt. Finding someone to replace Bob Iger, Disney has learned, is far easier said than done. So they’ll get a do-over now, and hopefully the next transition goes better than this first try.
Iger first became Disney’s CEO in 2005, a role he held through 2020 when he passed the baton to Chapek as his successor, though Iger remained the chairman of the board through the end of 2021. Iger’s success as the company’s CEO made him one of the most accomplished and respected executives in business and his efforts served to reinvigorate a once-successful brand that had fallen on hard times before his appointment. Under Iger, Disney acquired Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century FOX, among others, forming the backbone for their continued content moving forward. He saw the launch of new theme parks, most notably in Asia, and was instrumental behind the launch of Disney+ as the company pivoted to a new direction in the streaming era.
His leadership has continually provided a focused stability, skillfully leading Disney into the future with new acquisitions and initiatives. It is no stretch to say that Iger is one of the most accomplished and important figures in the storied history of the Walt Disney Company, so his return as CEO figures to be a massive boon to the company’s near future. The skilled, stable leadership of Iger was sorely lacking with Chapek, who continually failed to win people over through a series of miscues. In his defense, Chapek did take over the role amidst one of hte most turbulent eras in modern memory, through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the box office, streaming, and theme park fallout that came from all of that. So there were ways in which Chapek faced tough odds right away, yet he didn’t exactly inspire much confidence about the company’s future as he did.
Enter Iger, whose shocking return will bring much-needed leadership in a time of uncertainty. This figures to be very good news for fans of Star Wars and Lucasfilm, though how much of an impact will be felt in this two-year term may be hard to discern. Yet the leadership that Iger will bring figures to help steer the ship toward longer-term health for all involved. His leadership is focused on the creative side of the company and ensuring quality entertainment, which was in functionality not the same approach taken by Chapek. This is news very much worth celebrating for fans of Disney, and fans of Star Wars.