It has been updated With Bob Iger’s full memo and premarket marketing:
Bob Iger replaced Bob Chapek in a shock move at the world’s largest media company, which has been in turmoil since Iger stepped down as CEO in February 2020.
The shakeup, which has largely caught the entertainment industry and Wall Street by surprise, was confirmed by DC’s board of directors late Sunday. A shake-up was felt in the C-suite, but the prospect of Iger returning to the CEO role still seemed remote. The event recalls the situation at Apple a generation ago, when Steve Jobs returned to lead the company he founded in 1997 after 12 years in the desert. Iger had been out of power for less than three years as CEO.
Disney stock rose 8% to $91.80/share in pre-market trading Monday morning, responding to Iger’s impressive rebound. It comes less than two weeks after the company reported the lowest closing price for DC shares in more than two years as the media conglomerate’s quarterly results fell short of Wall Street expectations.
“We are grateful to Bob Chapek for his long service to Disney, including navigating the company through the challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, chair of Disney’s board of directors. The board concluded that as Disney enters an increasingly complex period of industry change, Bob Iger is uniquely positioned to lead the company through this critical period.
The news shocked even the most senior Disney executives, industry sources said. In a press release emailed by DC’s corporate communications team, employees learned of the dramatic change. The initial reaction of many employees contacted by Variety was to suspect that it was some kind of phishing scam or Internet scam. The shock was even greater as the news was confirmed and the stranger-than-fiction reality set in.
The news broke around 6:45pm PT, with several top Disney executives attending tonight’s pregame event at Dodger Stadium for Elton John’s farewell performance, which aired as a live event on Disney+. Disney and ABC executives attended the American Music Awards for ABC’s live telecast at the Microsoft Theater in Hollywood. Rumor has it that when the email landed in the inboxes of Disney’s 190,000 employees worldwide, there were loud boos from the cushy seats at Dodger Stadium and the AMAs.
Chapek’s ouster comes on the heels of a third-quarter earnings report that Wall Street expects will hit $1.5 billion in fiscal 2022 for content and marketing. For that balance sheet, and as Disney+ posted subscriber growth in the quarter, Red Ink still had a significant impact on Disney’s stock price. On Nov. 9, the day after Disney’s after-market earnings report, shares fell below $100 to below $90.
Iger’s subtle comeback adds a dramatic finish to the soap opera that has captivated Hollywood for the past few years. Iger, whose 15-year run transformed Disney through acquisitions and ambitious ambitions, has always cast a shadow over his successor. In this case, however, there were reports of Iger and Chapek tussles from day one.
“I am very optimistic about the future of this great company and am delighted that the board has asked me to return as CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “Disney and its unrivaled brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of many people around the world—especially in the hearts of our employees, who are inspired by our commitment to this company and its mission. I am honored to be asked to lead this amazing team that inspires generations through unparalleled, bold storytelling with a clear mission focused on creative excellence.
In a memo to the staff late Sunday, Iger explained his own sense of surprise at returning to his old captain’s chair (Read the full memo below).
“I know this company has asked a lot of you over the last three years and these times remain very challenging, but as you’ve heard before, I’m optimistic, and if I’ve learned one thing from my years at Disney. Even in the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty— It’s about our crew and cast members being able to achieve the impossible,” Iger wrote.
Chapek could not immediately be reached for comment. The 30-year-old Disney executive, who has experience running theme parks, consumer products, home entertainment and distribution, is seen as the perfect insider to navigate Disney’s declining complex global operations. But Chapek hit some early mistakes during the unprecedented pandemic. He also inherited a strategy of betting the farm on the growth potential of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. Whenever the potential for growth in the global streaming sector has clearly come to earth, Chapek’s regime has had the inevitable task of delivering the numbers to Wall Street. Last week, Jim Cramer called for Chapek’s replacement, citing DC’s “scale of hell.”
In September, Chapek headlined Disney’s D23 fan event, which showcased the breadth of content from Marvel and Lucasfilm to National Geographic, Pixar, ESPN and ABC under Disney’s roof.
“The Disney of the next 100 years is going to be bigger than the Disney of the first 100 years,” Chapek said. Difference on September 10. “The elasticity of the brand is amazing — capital D dis. Each of the elements of our company — Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, ESPN, ABC — has its own identity. But they all play into a larger vision of what Disney is. And what can’t be Disney and The final judge that cannot be is the fan, the spectator, the guest. They are the final judge.
Chapek has had an unprecedented time leading the company through sudden closures of theme parks around the world, as well as other closures that affect the company’s entire business. But Disney’s “Black Widow” has been embroiled in an uphill battle with Scarlett Johansson and CAA over her decision to send the film to Disney+, as movie theaters remain largely closed. Disney’s involvement in a brief war of words and litigation with Johansson shocked the creative community.
Earlier this year, Chapek was pressured to issue a public apology to D.C. employees for the company’s lobbying efforts and political donations in Florida in connection with the state’s latest anti-LGBT law. The situation, and the degree to which Chapek was considered, was a prime example of the kind of public relations and talent relations that the Walt Disney Co. leader, Iger, demands of those skills, which was only emphasized when he stepped down in February. In the year As reports of new and highly contagious diseases emerge from China in 2020.
Despite these missteps, Disney’s board of directors renewed his contract for three years in June.
“Bob (Chapek) is the right leader at the right time for The Walt Disney Company, and the board has complete confidence in him and the leadership team,” Arnold said in June.
Here’s Iger’s full note:
Dear Colleagues and Cast Members,
It is with incredible gratitude and humility—and, a little surprise—that I write to you tonight with the news that I have returned to the role of CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
As I look at the creative success of our teams at the studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN and globally, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the incredible imagination and redevelopment of our parks, the continued work of ABC News and many other successes in our businesses, I greatly appreciate your achievements and look forward to many new endeavors with you. i am happy.
I know this company has asked a lot of you over the past three years, and these times certainly remain very challenging, but as you’ve heard me say before, I’m an optimist, and if I’ve learned one thing from my years at Disney, even in the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially uncertainty. Inside—our crew and cast members achieve the impossible.
You will hear a lot from me and your leaders tomorrow and in the coming weeks. In the meantime, allow me to express my deepest gratitude for all that you have done. Disney has a special place in the hearts of people around the world thanks to you, and your commitment to this company and its mission to delight people with great storytelling is an inspiration to me every day.
(Matt Donnelly and Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)