EntertainmentBob Iger vs. Bob Chapek: Behind the war...

Bob Iger vs. Bob Chapek: Behind the war for the throne of the world’s largest media empire


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It was like something out of a fantasy movie. The king in exile returns to right the wrongs of his unpopular heir and retake the reins of Mickey Mouse’s ‘magical kingdom’ to lead him back to glory; all the makings of an epic adventure, albeit one that replaces cloaks, swords, and magic with suits, business reports, and stock charts. In this case Bob Igerthe legendary CEO of the Walt Disney Companyreturned to his post to replace his successor Bob Chapekan unpopular leader who had wrought great changes in the entertainment titan whose consequences led to his downfall.

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The circumstances in which the dismissal took place were equally dramatic, occurring on the afternoon of Sunday, November 20, during the prelude to a long-awaited Elton John concert – the last of his tour in the United States – at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which Disney+ was going to stream. Chapek was scheduled to make an appearance, but he canceled at noon. His right-hand man Kareem Daniel, head of the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution that Chapek created, was briefly at the stadium but left after the news broke.

Thus ended the two-year reign of Bob Chapek, without any mention in the internal mail where Bob Iger accepted his return to office with “gratitude and humility”. The Bob’s war had a winner.

successor to the throne

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But how did it get to this point? For that we have to go back to the history of these two executives. Bob Iger may not need a letter of introduction, but he is undoubtedly one of the most influential that the ‘House of Mouse’ has had, a company that he led for 15 years. Seasoned as an executive at the American Broadcasting Company (better known as ABC), Iger joined Disney when the television company was acquired by the multinational in 1995, becoming president of Disney in 2000 and chosen as successor to CEO Michael Eisner in 2005..

During his time at the head of the organization he achieved incredible changes for the company being in charge of the acquisition of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, as well as the purchase of 21st Century Fox in 2019. But perhaps his greatest contribution was the establishment of the Disney + streaming service, seeing the future of the company in this type of platform.

But as he approached 15 years at the helm of the empire, internal forces within the company and investors were already calling for a change. Choosing a successor is perhaps the most important decision a company leader has to make, and one bad decision can ruin the legacy of the most celebrated CEO. This is how we saw it with Jack Welch, the celebrated executive who led the technology giant General Electric between 1981 and 2001, and who regretted until his death in 2020 his decision to pass the baton to Jeff Immelt, executive who led the company to his ( relative) current irrelevance.

In the case of Disney, this is where Bob Chapek comes in, another executive who made a career at Disney after joining the company in 1993. He started out as director of marketing for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a division that he rose to become its president in 2006 after taking the company from the VHS era to the DVD and Blu-ray era. From there he was promoted to head of distribution for the Walt Disney Studio in 2009, then to president of Disney Consumer Products and, finally, president of the Parks and Resorts division—in charge of the company’s major and lucrative theme parks. -in 2015.

Chapek was described by his colleagues as an “experienced operator” who put the company’s interests above any political agenda. “He’s nice without having a big personality,” said a Disney veteran. to Variety. These factors, together with a long experience at Disney that allowed him to know the ins and outs of several of its divisions, were crucial for Iger to choose him as his successor over more popular candidates such as the then head of Direct-to-Consumer Kevin Mayer, who was in charge of launching services like Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu+; and Tom Staggs, then president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek had a long career within the company.  (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

It should be noted that although the succession announcement was made in February 2020, a New York Times report indicated that Chapek had already been selected since 2018. Whatever the reality, Bob Chapek’s time as Disney chief executive it had already begun, with Iger taking over as company president through 2021, the Jiminy Cricket ready to whisper advice to his successor.

What went wrong?

Bob Chapek’s reign was hampered by circumstances beyond his control, with the pandemic of COVID-19 wreaking havoc in both the entertainment industry such as amusement parks, two of the main sources of income, and in this initial aspect it has not been a great target of criticism, managing to steer the company away from financial disaster with some skill.

However, behind the scenes, not everything was going well in the company and Bob Iger’s confidants indicated that he was lamenting in private as Chapek’s apparent lack of empathy and emotional intelligence were causing a rift with the creative side of Hollywoodcausing Disney to lose its way.

An example of this could be seen in the fight that Disney had with the actress Scarlett Johansson over the division of the profits from the Marvel movie “Black Widow”. Released in the midst of the pandemic simultaneously in theaters and on Disney +, the film experienced a reduced box office, a particularly important issue for the actress whose part of her salary depended on how well the film did on the big screen. and if well Disney managed to reach an agreement at the end of 2021the damage to the company’s reputation had already been done.

The complaints reached Chapek’s ears, further chilling the relationship between the two, a rift that led the CEO to not seek his predecessor’s advice during the crisis caused by anti-LGBT legislation launched by the state of Florida – headquarters of Walt Disney World – in early 2022, with Disney’s initially ambivalent response causing criticism outside and within the company.

It was not the only reason for criticism against Chapek, whose decision to centralize all the economic decisions of his productions in a new division called Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution – led by his lieutenant Kareem Daniel – as a way of controlling expenses was tremendously unpopular. among creative teams, accustomed during Iger’s time to greater autonomy to handle these issues on their own.

Despite these bumps, Bob Chapek seemed to continue leading Disney and in June he signed a contract extension that would keep him at the helm of the company until at least 2025. Everything changed on November 8, when during an earnings call with investors Chapek presented with curious nonchalance the disastrous results of that quarter., which were much lower than expected. And although the CEO assured that this situation was the breaking point for a more promising future, the enormous drop of up to 13% in the value of Disney’s shares led to more public talk of the need to replace it.

This situation did not improve when on November 11 Chapek sent a notice stating that the company would have to take austerity measuresincluding laying off employees, a decision that certainly didn’t endear them to the Disney workforce.

It was at 3 pm on November 17 that Iger received the call from Disney’s Chairman of the Board, Susan Arnold, asking him to return to office. He accepted.

And now that?

The rapid fall of Bob Chapek and the return of Bob Iger was celebrated inside and outside the company, with Disney shares rising 10% a day after the announcement. However, his reign will be relatively short, only two years, as he looks to find a new successor in the CEO role.

Meanwhile, the executive has been quick to dismantle some decisions of his now predecessor, showing Kareem Daniel the exit door and making changes to restore autonomy to the other divisions.

About what else he will do during his new time, at the moment there is only speculation, although some media theorize that Iger plans to sell the company to Apple, a bite of the apple that is for another story.

Source: Elcomercio

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I have worked as a journalist for over 10 years and have written for various news outlets. I currently work as an author at 24 News Recorder, mostly covering entertainment news. I have a keen interest in the industry and enjoy writing about the latest news and gossip. I am also a member of the National Association of Journalists.


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