Celebrating the 2014 CEO of the Year—Walt Disney’s Bob Iger

“When Bob stepped into the CEO role at Walt Disney, the company faced significant challenges, including declining financial performance, a weakened global brand and employees who no longer believed in the company’s historic greatness,” said David Cote, CEO of Honeywell and the 2013 CEO of the Year, in presenting the CEO of the Year award at a gathering held at the New York Stock Exchange. “One of America’s greatest brands seemed to have lost its way. Shareholders, including the family of the founder, were up in arms. Bob moved swiftly to resolve conflicts, restore relationships and focus Disney back on the track of unparalleled creativity, innovative use of technology and global growth. And the results have been astounding.”

Cote was not exaggerating. Over the course of Iger’s tenure through the end of the 2013 fiscal year, Walt Disney’s total shareholder return was 202 percent. In addition, the company’s share price—$23.81 when Iger became CEO—recently hit $86.75.

In accepting the award, Iger paid homage to his former boss and mentor, Tom Murphy, former CEO of Capital Cities/ABC. “Tom taught me, as well as everyone else who worked for him, that there is never a substitute for integrity,” he said. “No matter what your business strategy was, no matter what initiative you were taking, no matter what decision you were making, it would never be and should never be at the sacrifice of integrity.”

He also acknowledged the challenges business face keeping up with the pace of change. “One of the real reasons why Disney is so successful today is that we look at change as an opportunity, not as a disruption. We believe that it’s really important for us to welcome change because we’ve learned that resisting it, trying to will it away is futile. And trying to protect the status quo—that’s never really a winning strategy.”

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As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.

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