Disney shocked Wall Street—and most Disney insiders—yesterday with the sudden announcement that CEO Bob Iger would step down, handing the reins, effective immediately, to Bob Chapek, who has led Disney Parks since 2015. Iger will remain executive chairman until his contract runs out next year and told investors on a call shortly after the announcement that he will focus on the creative side of the business.
Iger took the helm at Disney following a period marked by poor performance and board conflict, turning the brand around and leading huge acquisitions, including Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm and most recently, the mega-deal that gave Disney all of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets and set the company up to compete with original content, as well as with the streaming service Hulu.
His many successes earned Iger not only goodwill on the Street, but accolades such as the Chief Executive of the Year Award in 2014. From 2005 to 2013, Disney’s total shareholder return was 202 percent and market cap reached $130 billion. Since then share price has only risen—an investment of $100 when Iger took the top spot would yield $644 today.
In speaking with Chief Executive’s J.P. Donlon about the changes he had made at Disney, Iger said: “These moves were not only designed to set us up in terms of future growth but to start shifting a culture and becoming a company that believed in itself again. I say this not to be critical of what happened before. But times had changed, and the needs of the company were very different. I took advantage of being a new CEO to make these moves. And they led to tangible, cultural change within the company.”