Iger ‘open’ to extending Disney CEO run

The Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger is “open” to postponing his retirement and staying in his role beyond his current 2018 exit date.

Bob IgerThe saga over Iger’s successor has been running for nearly half a decade, with the widely-respected executive previously postponing an expected 2016 retirement date to remain until June next year.

With touted replacements such as Thomas Staggs and Jay Rasulo no longer in the frame, and a succession plan looking far from completion, Iger told analysts on a conference call yesterday he could yet stay on again.

“I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of this company, which is something the board’s clearly going to help determine,” said Iger.

“While I’m confident that my successor is going to be chosen on a timely basis and chosen well, if it’s in the best interest of the company for me to extend my term, I’m open to that.”

Despite claiming there was a “good, strong succession process underway”, there was “nothing specific to announce at this point”.

Iger has been with Disney-ABC-affiliated companies for 43 years, ultimately succeeding Michael Eisner as CEO of Disney in 2005. He has since overseen the transformational acquisitions of Toy Story producer Pixar Animation, Marvel Entertainment, and Star Wars rights holder Lucasfilm.

His comments came after Disney’s latest quarterly results for the three months to December 31, 2016, in which the media networks division, which houses ABC and Disney Channels Worldwide, took revenues of US$6.23 billion, down 2% on the US$6.33 billion the previous year. Within that, cable networks were down 2% at US$4.43 billion and the ABC broadcast network flat at US$1.81 billion.

Operating income was down 11% at the cable division, coming in at US$864 million, while the broadcast segment grew 28% to reach US%379 million.

The Disney studio arm saw revenues fall 7% to US$2.52 billion and OP down 17% to US$842 million from US$1.01 billion.

Overall first quarter company revenues were US$14.78 billion, which was down 3% on the US$15.24 billion posted a year ago. Operating profit was down 7% to US$3.96 billion from US$4.27 billion in fiscal Q1 2016.

Disney pointed to lower equity income from its stake in A+E Networks and equity losses from buying into BAMTech as reasons for a US$119 million fall in income of company investees.

Disney said A+E experienced lower advertising revenues and higher programming costs, partially offset by affiliate fees and lower intangible amortisation. The costs of rebranding H2 has Viceland was also cited, while “results at [VOD service] Hulu were comparable to the prior-year quarter”.

Earlier this month, Laurene Powell Jobs cut her stake in Disney in half to around 4%.

This means Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple chief Steve Jobs, is no longer Disney’s largest shareholder. Investment management firm Vanguard Group now holds that title with a 5.5% stake.

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