Bob Iger Passes the CEO Torch at Walt Disney

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has thrived under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Bob Iger. Disney has expanded its empire greatly under his leadership and the company has grown massively. Now an announcement has been made that, effective immediately, Bob Iger is stepping down as CEO and will stay on as non-executive chairman of Disney through 2021.

Under Iger’s tenure, Walt Disney’s market capitalization for its shareholders has risen fivefold, and that market cap of $231 billion as of Tuesday’s close would be far higher had it not been for the recent sell-off of 16.5% from its all-time high. Disney’s one-time annual dividend of $0.27 per common share at the end of 2005 has now risen to a an annualized payment of $1.76 per share.

Iger’s replacement is Bob Chapek, who has most recently served Disney as the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. While Iger will no longer be CEO, he will continue to direct the company’s creative endeavors as the release indicated he will remain through the end of his contract at the end of 2021.

Barring anything unknown at the current time, Bob Iger is likely to go down in history as one of the greatest leaders in Disney’s history. On top of the most recent massive acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Eiger’s tenure as CEO dates back to 2005. That means that under his leadership, and on top of the Fox transaction, Iger has overseen the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and also Lucasfilm to have own the Star Wars brand. The recent Disney+ launch was under Iger’s watch, as was the 2016 opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort in China.

Bob Chapek is shown to be bringing 27 years of successful leadership from Disney’s Parks, Consumer Products and Studio businesses. The company’s board of directors unanimously elected Chapek to serve as the next CEO. It has been known that Disney was going to have a succession plan at some point in the not so distant future. Iger extended his contract to lead Disney and the company has reportedly looked at multiple internal and external candidates to replace him.

Chapek will now directly oversee all of Disney’s business segments and corporate functions, and he is set to join Disney’s board of directors at a later date. The Walt Disney press release indicated that the new head of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will be named at later date as well.

By running Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Chapek oversaw the largest business segment for Disney. This brings together global operations and is shown by the company to be more than 170,000 employees around the planet. The segment also includes Disney’s travel and leisure businesses that include its cruise line and its vacation ownership program. He also presided over the company’s toys, apparel, home goods, publisher, digital platform, and the Disney store locations and its e-commerce platform. Chapek is also shown to have overseen its Shanghai Disney Resort opening and other attractions.

Walt Disney shares have traded down to $128.19 after having been above $140 just last week, with the coronavirus spreading and posing a risk to Disney’s themeparks and movie operations while the global growth story is dwindling. Disney’s after-hours reaction had its shares down another 2.5% at $125.00. Disney’s 52-week trading range is $107.32 to $153.41.

Bob Iger’s announcement said:

With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO. I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the Company’s creative endeavors.

Bob will be the seventh CEO in Disney’s nearly 100-year history, and he has proven himself exceptionally qualified to lead the Company into its next century. Throughout his career, Bob has led with integrity and conviction, always respecting Disney’s rich legacy while at the same time taking smart, innovative risks for the future. His success over the past 27 years reflects his visionary leadership and the strong business growth and stellar results he has consistently achieved in his roles at Parks, Consumer Products and the Studio. Under Bob’s leadership as CEO, our portfolio of great businesses and our amazing and talented people will continue to serve the Company and its shareholders well for years to come.

Bob Chapek’s announcement from the Disney release said:

I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world, and to lead our exceptionally talented and dedicated cast members and employees. Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team. I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.

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