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Disney Board May ‘Beg’ Bob Iger to Stay as CEO, Says Expert

”Mr. Iger is now indispensable at Disney,“ writes James Stewart

With succession plans in disarray, the Disney board may have no choice but to “beg” CEO Bob Iger to stay on beyond his contract in 2018.

In a revealing piece in The New York Times, James Stewart, author of the 2005 book “DisneyWar,” wrote that Iger and the Disney board orchestrated the departure of Tom Staggs, the company’s COO who until recently had been the chosen successor to Iger when his contract expires in June 2018.

Staggs resigned on Monday, a move that shocked Wall Street and Hollywood.

“Mr. Iger may well have developed reservations about Mr. Staggs over the past year. But whatever his and the board’s motives in orchestrating Mr. Staggs’s departure, one thing is clear: Mr. Iger is now indispensable at Disney,” wrote Stewart.

He continued: “With Mr. Staggs gone, and no other obvious candidate to take his place, the board may have little choice but to beg Mr. Iger to stay.”

An individual with knowledge of the company told TheWrap that this was not a possibility, and that Iger had already ruled this out.

Begging Iger to stay is not without its perils, as even Stewart acknowledged. He reported that a “person who has close ties to the board told me that board members have been keenly interested in succession and, given Disney’s history, very aware of the perils of a chief executive who stays too long.”

He wrote that Staggs’ performance in the year since he won a run-off for succession with former CFO Jay Rasulo had not won the full confidence of the board. He said some board members had also been reluctant to name him COO.

Stewart wrote:

In any event, in the following weeks board discussions about Mr. Staggs’s future intensified. Unknown to Mr. Staggs, some on the board had resisted naming him chief operating officer the year before, but Mr. Iger had prevailed. Those reservations surfaced again periodically, focusing on whether Mr. Staggs was the ideal person to lead Disney over the next 10 years, a period likely to take the company into the uncharted waters of the continuing digital revolution and the post-cable era.

Stewart also appears to have spoken to Staggs for the article, citing “a person close to Mr. Staggs” who said he was given no specific criticisms when Iger told him the board wanted to expand its search for CEO, but “offered only a vague reference to Mr. Staggs’s lack of vision.”