At long last, Bob Iger’s reign at Disney has come to an end. The Walt Disney Company announced today that effective immediately, Iger is stepping down as CEO and assuming the role of executive chairman. Bob Chapek, who most recently served as chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, will assume the role of CEO, effective immediately.
Iger was an executive at ABC when Disney bought the broadcast network, and served as president of ABC until 1999 when he was promoted to president of Walt Disney International. He then became president and COO of Disney in 2000, making him the obvious successor to Michael Eisner, who had overseen a boon in Disney’s animated films unit and parks expansion. And in 2005, Iger was named the new CEO of Disney when Eisner was ousted.
Iger oversaw unprecedented expansion of Disney in a time of upheaval in the entertainment industry. He first calmed tensions with Pixar and formalized a purchase of the animation studio, then oversaw the purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2009, the purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, and spearheaded the opening of the Shanghai Disney theme park.
Iger’s contract with Disney originally expired in 2018 but was extended to 2019 when the company was having trouble finding a successor. During that time, Iger oversaw Disney’s biggest purchase to date, the 20th Century Fox studio, and the launch of Disney’s first streaming service Disney+.
The CEO’s current contract had been extended a second time to run through 2021, so today’s announcement comes as a bit of a shock. As does the announcement of Chapek as the new CEO. Chapek has been with the company since 1993 and has been head of Disney Parks since 2018.
“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 stated.
Iger added, “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.” That latter note is interesting, as it seems to suggest that Chapek will be focusing on business matters at first before diving full-on into running point on the company’s creative efforts.
“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,” Chapek said.
Chapek noted, “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.”
Per THR, Chapek’s contract runs through 2023 and carries with it a $2.5 million salary. Chapek was one of two favorites in the running to succeed Iger, with the other being Direct-to-Consumer and International chairman Kevin Mayer, who oversaw the launch of Disney+.
Iger picked a hell of a time to depart, as he’s coming off what was surely designed to be a fond farewell. 2019 saw the launch of the highest-grossing film in history, Avengers: Endgame, as well as additional box office successes like The Lion King and Aladdin and the launch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both theme parks as well as The Mandalorian and Disney+. The only major shortcoming there was Rise of Skywalker, which was surely designed to be an Endgame-level exit but fell short of expectations critically and commercially.
Still, Iger oversaw an insane and unprecedented run in his tenure at Disney. His legacy in Hollywood history is well secured.