The Walt Disney Company board of directors ousted Bob Chapek as chief executive on Sunday after concluding that various missteps had caused irreparable damage to his ability to lead and abruptly announced that Robert A. Iger would return to the head of the company, with immediate effect, for two years. .
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service,” Board Chair Susan Arnold said in a statement. “The Board of Directors has concluded that as Disney enters an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely positioned to lead the company through this pivotal time.” Disney’s board of directors is then expected to meet in person in New York in December.
She added that Mr. Iger had the “deep respect” of Disney’s management team.
Mr Iger, 71, said in a statement that he was “extremely optimistic about the future of this great company and delighted that the board has asked him to return as CEO”. Mr. Iger led Disney as chief executive between 2005 and 2020. At that time, he handed day-to-day management of the company to Mr. Chapek, his hand-picked successor, while remaining executive chairman. Mr. Iger left the company entirely in January.
Mr. Chapek could not immediately be reached for comment.
The surprise reinstatement of Mr. Iger and the ousting of Mr. Chapek comes following an announcement of disastrous results on 8 November. Disney blindsided Wall Street by reporting losses of $1.5 billion in its fledgling streaming division, down from $630 million a year earlier. . Mr Chapek said Disney+’s rising production, marketing and technology costs contributed to the “maximum” losses.
Disney shares fell 12% the next morning, in part because investors – and many inside Disney – were shocked by the carefree tone Mr Chapek adopted when discussing the report. on the results during a conference call with analysts. Mr. Chapek’s behavior struck a lot of deaf people.
Immediately, CNBC host Jim Cramer began calling for Mr. Chapek to be fired during comments on his show. On Friday, Mr Cramer said Mr Chapek was “unable to run a fantastic business” and “we need someone new at Disney”.
Mr Cramer added: ‘This record is the record from hell.’
Mr. Chapek, 62, was appointed CEO in February 2020, succeeding the hugely popular Mr. Iger. The transfer did not go smoothly. The coronavirus pandemic has forced Mr. Chapek to shut down most of the business. This year, Mr. Chapek has faced one crisis after another, some of his own making.
In March, Disney found itself embroiled in a heated argument with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, over legislation to ban classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity until in the third year. Mr. Chapek initially tried not to take sides, at least publicly, which provoked an employee revolt. Mr Chapek then denounced the bill, sparking a political storm, with right-wing figures protesting “Woke Disney”.
In June, Mr. Chapek abruptly fired Disney’s top television executive, amid howls of disapproval from Hollywood. In August, activist investor Dan Loeb pushed Mr. Chapek to consider a series of changes, including shaking up the board and splitting up ESPN. (Mr. Loeb later backtracked on a spin-off, say on twitter that he learned more about Disney’s “growth and innovation plans” for ESPN.)
All the while, some of Disney’s most dedicated theme park patrons have been outraged at price increases that they see as nickel and dime. Last month, Disney told investors that theme park profits would have been even higher had it not been for an ‘unfavorable attendance mix’ at Disneyland, which annual pass holders have taken as an insult. T-shirts, mugs and stickers began selling online bearing the word “Unfavorables” in Disneyland’s signature calligraphy.