Skift Take

For all the hoopla over streaming and the future of digital media, Disney's board goes with a guy who ran theme parks. Knows customer service, pricing, marketing, and packaging — and how a global business swings with the economy. Maybe an exec from the tourism frontline is the right pick.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, who steered the company through successful purchases of Star Wars, Marvel and Fox’s entertainment businesses, is stepping down immediately, the company said in a surprise announcement Tuesday.

The Walt Disney Co. named as his replacement Bob Chapek, most recently chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products business.

Iger will remain executive chairman through the end of his contract Dec. 31, 2021.

“I will continue to conduct the company’s creative endeavors while also leading the board,” Iger said on a conference call with reporters and analysts.

His most recent coup was orchestrating a $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets and launching the Disney Plus streaming service in November. That service gained nearly 29 million paid subscribers in less than three months.

In a statement, Iger said it was an “optimal time” for him to step down.

“Did not see this coming — Wowza,” tweeted LightShed media analyst Rich Greenfield.

Iger became chief executive of Disney in 2005 after a shareholder revolt by Roy E. Disney led to the ouster of longtime chief Michael Eisner. Iger steered Disney through successful acquisitions of Lucasfilms, Marvel, Pixar and other brands that became big moneymakers for Disney.

Iger, a former weatherman, joined broadcaster ABC in 1974, 22 years before Disney bought the network.

At ABC, Iger developed such successful programs as “Home Improvement,” “The Drew Carey Show,” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and was instrumental in launching the quiz show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” He was also criticized for cancelling well-regarded but expensive shows such as “Twin Peaks,” “China Beach,” and “thirtysomething.”

Iger, 69, was the second-highest paid CEO in 2018, as calculated by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm. He earned $65.6 million. The top earner was Discovery’s David Zaslav who earned $129.5 million.

Susan Arnold, the independent lead director of the Disney board said succession planning had been ongoing for several years.

Chapek, 60, is only the seventh CEO in Disney history. Chapek was head of the parks, experiences and products division since it was created in 2018. He was previously head of parks and resorts and before that president of consumer products.

This article was written by MAE ANDERSON and TALI ARBEL from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Tags: disney parks, Walt Disney

Photo credit: Bob Chapek, Disney's new CEO who used to run the parks division. Kin Cheung

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