Updated March 16th, 2024 at 13:05 IST

Disney CEO Bob Iger has a lingering legacy problem

From Beverly Hills to West Hollywood, the scuttle among Tinseltown executives is that Iger will never leave.

Reported by: Jennifer Saba
Disney CEO Bob Iger | Image:Disney CEO Bob Iger
Advertisement

Second chance. Walt Disney is trying to break the spell of its enchanted corner office. The board is trolling to replace its longtime occupant Chief Executive Bob Iger, something it has failed at repeatedly. The best way for Iger to ink his legacy is to nudge directors along.

From Beverly Hills to West Hollywood, the scuttle among Tinseltown executives is that Iger will never leave. Their skepticism is warranted. Since he was first appointed chief executive in 2005, he extended his contract five times before he abruptly appointed longtime Disney executive Bob Chapek to succeed him in February 2020. The board invited Iger back in November 2022, after booting out Chapek. He has since extended his contract until 2026.

Advertisement

The company said a successful CEO transition is a top priority. In January 2023, the board formed a special Succession Planning Committee tasked with finding a new leader. The search committee met seven times last year, according to Disney’s white paper released on Monday. Their mandate includes developing a timeline and reviewing prospective internal and external candidates. Half of the committee – Nike Chair Mark Parker and General Motors boss Mary Barra – have been directors for over six years and are responsible for the past ill-fated changing of the guard.

There are two directions the company could go. Disney could tap someone in house. The board is evaluating four of Disney’s divisional heads as part of the formal search, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Dana Walden, the co-chair of Disney Entertainment who is respected among the creative community, or James Pitaro, the leader of sports network ESPN, seem like runners. The $205 billion company could throw a stone in Los Angeles and find a Disney alum. Tom Staggs, who was once the heir apparent when he was chief operating officer at the Mouse House, might be invited back in the form of a deal. He is currently consulting for Iger. Disney could buy the Blackstone-backed Candle Media, the firm founded by Staggs and former Disney executive Kevin Mayer and have an instant contender for the C-suite.

Advertisement

When Iger left Disney just as the world was on the brink of a pandemic, his reputation was riding high. He got its streaming flagship service Disney+ off the ground to great fanfare, and Disney sharply outperformed the S&P 500 Index. His second go-around has eroded credibility, and risks those returns. Prodding the board to find his successor and defying Hollywood’s conventional wisdom would preserve his legacy.


 

Advertisement

Published March 16th, 2024 at 13:05 IST