Disney has reinstated Bob Iger as CEO, replacing incumbent Bob Chapek, effective immediately.
Iger spent 15 years as CEO, before he was succeeded by Chapek in 2020, and has now agreed to return to the position for a further two years, during which time he will “set the strategic direction for renewed growth” and help to “develop” a successor to take on the role after the completion of his term.
Chapek has “stepped down” from the role, according to Disney, with the sudden exit coming just days after the exec announced that he would be leading a “cost structure taskforce” with the Mouse House braced for job cuts and a hiring freeze in order to ensure future profitability for SVOD service Disney+.
This decision followed shortly after Disney’s Q4 report, in which it was revealed that DTC losses had risen to $1.47bn, up from $1.1bn in Q3, with total company-wide revenue falling short of Wall Street expectations.
Susan Arnold, chairman of the Disney board thanked Chapek for his service to Disney “including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” but said that it was Iger who was now “uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period.”
Iger has spent more than four decades at the company and led it through the major acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. He was CEO from 2005 to 2020 and served as executive chairman until last December.
In a statement, he said that he is “extremely optimistic for the future” of the company and “thrilled” to return as CEO.
Chapek, meanwhile, is a fellow Disney veteran, having been with the company for nearly 30 years in a variety of senior roles, serving as the boss of Disney Parks before his appointment as CEO in 2020. While he has been widely praised for navigating the company through the pandemic, the exec has also faced numerous criticisms for how he has handled multiple incidents.
The highest profile of these was the company’s approach to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. By contrast to Iger, who threatened to pull Disney out of Georgia when the state proposed similar legislation, Chapek largely remained silent while the company continued to donate to anti-LGBT Republican politicians in Florida.
The company would eventually speak out against the measure, though pockets of LGBT staff at Disney staged walkouts over what they perceived to be an underwhelming backing of their rights.
Disney under Chapek also faced a PR war against Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson when she stated her dissatisfaction over the company’s decision to release the movie mid-pandemic simultaneously in cinemas and on Disney+.
The company publicly revealed her salary for the film, something which critics said would not have been allowed to happen under Iger who was known for wanting to keep Hollywood stars happy.
Chapek was further criticised for his shock firing of high-ranking TV exec Peter Rice, who joined Disney when the company acquired 21st Century Fox. He was described as “not right for the new Disney culture”. However, Disney had seemed to have placed its faith in Chapek, extending his contract by a further three years back in June, and making his exit this week seemingly all the more abrupt.