Bob Iger Returns to Disney, Bob Chapek Out As CEO

Bob Iger Returns to Disney, Bob Chapek Out As CEO

In a delightfully shocking turn of events, Bob Iger is now the head of The Walt Disney Company again. Quietly on a Sunday night, Disney shared a press release announcing the major leadership change for the entertainment giant. Bob Iger previously lead the company from 2005 to 2020 with acquisition as a large part of his legacy. Under his reign, Disney purchased Pixar, Marvel and other big names in film and television. Many would say Disney Parks and resorts were at a high on Iger’s watch.

The Walt Disney Company shared this from Bob Iger: “I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO. Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”

Disney Blogger Nicole and Disney CEO Bob Iger
A happy coincidence meeting Bob Iger at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when the park’s Starbucks location opened many years ago

Why was Bob Chapek Fired from Disney?

In February of 2020, Bob Iger retired from the company leaving it in the hands of new CEO Bob Chapek. Many Disney goers were widely skeptical of the transfer. Of course in March of 2020, the world changed and the parks closed to the public for months. Chapek’s handling of the company since has been critiqued by many.

Before stepping into the lead role, Bob Chapek ran the parks and resorts division. It was then his misunderstanding of the parks started to become clear. When Galaxy’s Edge opened at Walt Disney World in late 2019, a theme park journalist noted the lack of entertainment in the land and questioned when guests could expect more. Chapek responded with a puzzling answer. He tried to say that Galaxy’s Edge had the most entertainment because all of the cast members working there had some kind of back story. It was then that many Disney fans questioned Bob Chapek’s willingness to listen to what people want.

Bob Chapek’s legacy will mostly be his dedication to short term profitability. This single minded leadership style proved helpful for a short time when Disney was in survival mode during the height of the pandemic. However, even stockholders became recently disenchanted. It seems this loss of trust is what ultimately brought on the sudden, unexpected firing. Bob Chapek signed a contract to continue as CEO for three more years just this summer.

Bob Chapek had recently become more open about his negative feelings towards Disney’s biggest admirers in interviews and on earnings calls. Some comments poked at fans for being disappointed when a trash can was moved. Disney leadership had also openly referred to pass holders negatively citing an “unfavorable attendance mix” at Disneyland.

During Disney’s Fiscal Full Year and Q4 2022 Earnings Results call, Bob Chapek and Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy hosted as usual. Much was positive but still lower than forecasted. Stock market analysts were appalled by Chapek downplaying certain aspects and not presenting potential changes or suitable plans. Shortly after, Bob Chapek and Disney announced a hiring freeze and that more layoffs would be coming.

This seemed to be the last straw for the board who just this summer gave Bob Chapek an unwarranted vote of confidence before offering him a new contract. It’s rumored that Bob Iger considered the offer for less than a day before making his official come back. Bob Chapek seems to have been fired very suddenly.

As for Chapek’s restructuring of the company, hopefully we see some reversals soon. Other disappointments in his tenure include reducing creative and financial power of top film and television leaders. With the creation of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution in October 2020, Kareem Daniel was named Chairman, changing the order of business for creatives. An unrelated pain, the parks and resorts also experienced strain during this time as more than 30,000 cast members were laid off. As the parks have regained momentum and revenge travel has overcome the industry, Bob Chapek shared he kept the park pass reservation system in place to be able to control labor spending. 

In his short time as CEO, Bob Chapek managed to damage the company’s relationships with a list actors, dedicated employees and cast members, life long Disney customers and invested stockholders. There’s nowhere to go but up! There’s a lot of mending to do and Bob Iger is the perfect person for it.

Bob Iger’s Letter to Cast Members

Bob Iger’s letter to cast members regarding his reinstatement as CEO has been circulating the internet. There’s no doubt it’s been a tough few years for those working at The Walt Disney Company from the front lines of the worldwide parks to the creatives in California. Mr. Iger said the following:

“Dear Fellow Employees and Cast Members,

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.

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.

Bob Iger”

What’s Next for The Walt Disney Company?

Sometimes the way forward requires a step back. Bob Iger still has more to give to Disney, the fans and cast members. After a rocky few years for The Walt Disney Company, I think we have a lot to look forward to. So what can we expect from Bob Iger’s farewell tour? Here’s what we know so far.

Disney shared that Bob Iger, “has agreed to serve as Disney’s CEO for two years, with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to lead the Company at the completion of his term.” While Bob Iger stayed on to coach his last successor, it was unsuccessful as the new CEO was reluctant and wanted to make his own mark. Now we know Bob Iger will be working to clean things up and to develop whoever is next. This is imperative as all sectors of the company have room for improvement at this time. 

Will Disney remove park pass reservations?

The manufactured demand built by the park pass reservation system has been a favorite of Disney leadership over the last few years. While Disneyland may need the system to provide a higher quality experience, Walt Disney World’s immense capacity does not. I’m hoping we see the reservation system disappear so guests can freely enjoy the parks as they wish. That goes for park hopping before 2:00 p.m. too!

Are annual passes going to be sold at Disney World again? 

Walt Disney World has only had the lowest priced annual pass available for quite some time now. That particular pass is only offered to Florida residents. Recently, on an earnings call, leadership mentioned that the return of all annual pass sales at Disney World could help boost profits during a recession. Prices of annual passes were also raised this past week even though they aren’t available for purchase. It seems we were close to passes being available again anyway. Hopefully this expedites that for those waiting. 

Will Disney finally hire more people back?

The November 2022 news of more Disney layoffs and a hiring freeze came as a shock to many. The parks are still rebuilding after running on the smallest amount of cast possible during turbulent times. Many promised offerings, like trams, the Disney Dining Plan and character meet and greets, have still not returned. Walt Disney World still has many shops and restaurants still closed and entertainment offerings that haven’t been brought back yet. In order to flourish again, it must be a time for hiring and building for Disney. 

As for Imagineering and the creative campus moving to Florida, so much is up in the air. A great deal of institutional knowledge was lost in different areas of the company with so many layoffs in such a short time. It would be of immeasurable value for Disney to rehire some of the excellent talent that was lost since 2020. 

For those paying close attention, the last few years brought a seemingly endless news cycle of questionable changes to Disney Parks. Personally, I think we Disney fans are in the queue waiting for what should be a smooth return to excellence over these next few years under Bob Iger’s guidance. There are reports that he got to work immediately. Here’s hoping we see positive updates very soon.

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