Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced that he will be stepping down effective immediately and Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, will succeed him. Chapek will now become the seventh CEO in the company’s history. Iger will however stay on as Executive Chairman through the end of 2021.
“I felt with the asset base in place, and with the strategy deployed, I felt that I should be spending as much time as possible on the creative side of the business,” Iger said in a call with investors after the news, adding there are “ample” projects to focus on. “Getting everything right creatively would be my number one goal.”
Here's a look back at the 15 years-long leadership of Disney CEO Bob Iger.
In 2005, Iger "inherited a Disney animation studio in disarray", and he immediately set about trying to turn the company’s fortunes around. He spent $7.4bn to acquire Pixar from Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2006, $4bn to acquire Marvel in 2009 and another $4bn to purchase Star Wars studio Lucasfilm in 2012.
His aggressive expansionism saw Disney push ambitiously into movies, theme parks and other entertainment verticals. This culminated last year in the gargantuan $71.3bn acquisition of 21st Century Fox and the launch of streaming platform Disney+, which has already drawn almost 30m subscribers.
"Disney will be saved by Pixar and we'll all live happily ever after," Iger reportedly told Steve Jobs in 2006. The relationship between Jobs and Disney was one that Iger was credited with mending, and the Pixar acquisition solidified the Disney brand. Moreover, Jobs pushed Iger to pursue the acquisition of Marvel.
And the Marvel buyout secured Disney its superhero payday. This purchase gave a very generous return on investment, generating $28bn at the box office alone.
But Disney CEO Bob Iger was not done. The Disney universe, already filled with countless pop culture icons like Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, the Avengers and Jack Sparrow, soon grew even further to include the vast Star Wars universe when Lucasfilm was acquired.
The biggest phase of expansion, however, only took place last year with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox. This also include stake buys in Fox Networks, FX, National Geographic Partners, Star India and Hulu.
When he took the reins of Disney, Iger also inherited several theme park flops. As CEO, Iger embraced big spending to expand parks and add attractions. Soon, attendance rose and Disney’s theme parks vertical began becoming profitable.
Iger's departure comes at a unique point in Disney's history. His aggressive expansionism has seen Disney’s earnings and numbers enjoy ecstatic highs. But at the same time, Disney faces park shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak. And Iger is only 14 months into a 36-month contract expansion, so the timing is highly unusual.
But Disney CEO Bob Iger’s legacy, it would seem, is sealed. His impact can be seen in every aspect of the company he rebuilt, and it will continue to shape its policies moving forward.
Disney's massive cultural significance today is majorly due to Iger efforts as CEO. The company dominates the zeitgeist - last year, about 38% of all domestic moviegoing in the US was commanded by Disney. And the year’s top five films were all Disney movies (and the company played a hand in the sixth). Furthermore, as many as seven movies made by the studio grossed more than $1bn last year.
“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,” Chapek, who will replace Iger as CEO, said in the press release. “Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”
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