Disney on Tuesday announced that Bob Iger is stepping down after 15 years as CEO of the media giant, and Bob Chapek will succeed him in the job.
Effective immediately, Iger will assume the role of executive chairman and direct Disney’s creative endeavors, while leading the company’s board to ensure a smooth transition through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021.
Chapek, who most recently served as chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer products division, has been with the company for 27 years in a variety of roles. He oversaw the Disney’s largest business segment, with operations around the globe and more than 170,000 employees worldwide. In 2018, the parks and resorts segment brought in $20.3 billion in revenue, up 10% from 2017 and nearly 20% from 2016. As CEO, his annual salary will increase to $2.5 million.
Chapek previously served as distribution head for the film studio from 2009 to 2011 before a stint as head of Disney’s consumer products. While he’s not seen as someone with creative chops, one former Disney executive who worked with Chapek praised him for his cost-cutting skills. “What he did in consumer products, what he did at parks is extract good margins out of businesses by reducing costs,” the individual told TheWrap last fall.
Chapek was among the three top Disney executives in the running for the top job, along with Walt Disney Television chairman Peter Rice and Kevin Meyer, who oversees Disney+ and the company’s other streaming services as chairman of direct-to-consumer & international.
Chapek, only the seventh CEO in Disney’s 100-year-plus history, will have big shoes to fill. Since Iger took over in 2005, he’s increased Disney’s net income from $2.5 billion to $13.1 billion as the stock price has ballooned 450%. He capped his final full year with a record seven seven blockbusters that topped $1 billion in ticket sales at the global box office.
Iger’s contract has been extended three times prior while he’s publicly talked about his plans to vacate the Magic Kingdom, most recently prolonging his retirement to oversee last year’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s film and TV entertainment assets and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service.
“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the company’s creative endeavors.
Chapek added in his own statement, “I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world, and to lead our exceptionally talented and dedicated cast members and employees.”
He also offered praise for his predecessor. “Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team,” he said. “I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”
During his tenure at the Parks segment, Chapek oversaw the opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort; the addition of numerous guest offerings across Disney’s six resort destinations in the U.S., Europe and Asia, including the creation of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the addition of Marvel-inspired attractions around the globe; and the expansion of Disney Cruise Line with the announced construction of three new ships.
From 2011 to 2015, Chapek was President of the former Disney Consumer Products segment, where he drove the technology-led transformation of the Company’s consumer products, retail and publishing operations.
Prior to that, he served as president of distribution for Disney studios and was responsible for overseeing the studios’ overall content distribution strategy across multiple platforms including theatrical exhibition, home entertainment, pay TV, digital entertainment and new media.
He also served as president of Disney’s home entertainment, where he spearheaded the successful “vault strategy” for the Disney’s iconic films and transformed the primary format of home entertainment from DVD to Blu-ray.
“The Board has been actively engaged in succession planning for the past several years, and after consideration of internal and external candidates, we unanimously elected Bob Chapek as the next CEO of The Walt Disney Company,” Disney’s lead independent director Susan Arnold said in a statement. “Mr. Chapek has shown outstanding leadership and a proven ability to deliver strong results across a wide array of businesses, and his tremendous understanding of the breadth and depth of the Company and appreciation for the special connection between Disney and its consumers makes him the perfect choice as the next CEO.