Bob Iger is returning to the Walt Disney Company as CEO effective immediately, replacing his successor Bob Chapek, who has stepped down from his position, Disney announced Sunday night.
The stunning and unexpected move comes as Disney’s stock has dropped 41% since the beginning of the year, although every other entertainment stock has similarly dropped. The board’s radical decision follows by about a week Disney’s poor showing in Q3 earnings.
Iger has agreed to serve as Disney’s CEO for two years, with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and work closely with it to develop a successor to lead the company at the completion of his term.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board. “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.”
“Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide–all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership,” she said.
The position of Chairman of the Board remains unchanged, with Arnold serving in that capacity.
“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”
Iger returns after serving as CEO of Disney for 15 years from 2005 to 2020, during which time he oversaw the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. He was a famously well-liked CEO — delaying his departure date multiple times — which stood in stark contrast to Chapek, whose decisions frequently rankled Disney employees, shareholders and fans.
Chapek became CEO in February 2020 after previously serving as Chairman of Parks and Resorts and, before that, president of Consumer Products. His tenure was marked by multiple missteps, including a poorly handled lawsuit from Scarlett Johansson over her salary tied to the streaming release of “Black Widow.” Chapek also initially chose to stay mum about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, drawing the ire of numerous employees.
Most recently, Chapek announced impending job cuts and a hiring freeze for Disney in 2023.
In June, the Disney board reaffirmed its commitment to Chapek by extending his contract by three years. Obviously, as 2022 drew to a close, the board changed its mind.