Updated Nov 21, 2022 - Economy & Business

Bob Iger back as Disney CEO, Chapek steps down

The Walt Disney Company Former CEO and Chairman Robert Iger speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference - Day 2 on September 07, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.

Walt Disney Company Former CEO and Chairman Robert Iger speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference - Day 2 on September 7, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

Bob Iger, who served as Walt Disney CEO for 15 years until 2020, has taken the job for a second time — effective immediately, the company confirmed Sunday night.

Why it matters: Iger was one of the most celebrated Hollywood executives ever. His successor, Bob Chapek, was given a three-year contract extension in June.

Details: "The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period," said board chair Susan Arnold in a statement.

By the numbers: Disney's share price is languishing near its eight-year low point, and is down 43% from its March 2021 high.

  • Disney had its worst day on the stock market in 21 years this month.

What he's saying: "It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer," Iger said in an email to Disney employees, obtained by Axios.

  • "When I look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the phenomenal reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.
  • "I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty — perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty — our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible.
"You will be hearing more from me and your leaders tomorrow and in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, allow me to express my deep gratitude for all that you do. Disney holds a special place in the hearts of people around the globe thanks to you, and your dedication to this company and its mission to bring joy to people through great storytelling is an inspiration to me every single day."
— Excerpt from Bob Iger's email to Disney staff

The big picture: Iger's return comes after years of confusing signals around his successor. Two executives, Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer, both reportedly left the company after being passed over for the CEO role.

  • Iger eventually picked Chapek as his successor weeks before the pandemic-driven lockdowns in the U.S., but the longtime parks and resorts executive had little to do with Disney’s new big bet — streaming.
  • Iger found opportunities to distance himself from Chapek, for example, he offered a firm stance against Florida's "Don't Say Gay Bill" publicly in February while Disney’s executive team struggled to address it.

Thought bubble: Iger's return is explicitly a stopgap appointment; he gets back his old CEO title but he won't get back his old job as chair of the board. The message is that Chapek was a disappointment, and the next two years should provide enough time for a more permanent successor to be found.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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