Disney ousts CEO and brings back Bob Iger in shock move

The ouster of Mr Bob Chapek comes in the wake of a disastrous earnings announcement on Nov 8. Disney shares dropped 12 per cent the next morning. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - The board of Walt Disney ousted Mr Bob Chapek as chief executive on Sunday after concluding that various missteps had done irreparable damage to his ability to lead and abruptly announced that Mr Bob Iger would return to lead the company, effective immediately, for two years.

Mr Iger, 71, ran Disney as CEO between 2005 and 2020. At that point, he handed the day-to-day running of the company to Mr Chapek, his handpicked successor, while staying on as executive chairman. Mr Iger departed the company entirely in January.

The surprise reinstatement of Mr Iger and ouster of Mr Chapek comes in the wake of a disastrous earnings announcement on Nov 8.

Disney blindsided Wall Street by reporting US$1.5 billion (S$2.1 billion) in losses at its fledgling streaming division, up from US$630 million in 2021. Mr Chapek said that higher Disney+ production, marketing and technology costs had contributed to the “peak” losses.

Disney shares dropped 12 per cent the next morning, in part because investors were shocked by the happy-go-lucky tone that Mr Chapek struck while discussing the earnings report on a conference call with analysts. Mr Chapek’s demeanour struck many as tone-deaf.

Immediately, CNBC host Jim Cramer began to call for Mr Chapek’s firing during comments on his show. Last Friday, Mr Cramer said: “We need someone new at Disney.”

Mr Chapek, 62, was named CEO in February 2020. The handover did not go smoothly. The coronavirus pandemic forced him to close most of the company. In 2022, Mr Chapek contended with one crisis after another, some of his own making.

In March, Disney became entangled in a heated dispute with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, over legislation meant to prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through the third grade.

Mr Chapek tried not to take a side at first, which prompted an employee revolt. Mr Chapek then denounced the Bill, setting off a political firestorm, with right-wing figures railing against “woke Disney”. NYTIMES

Follow ST on LinkedIn and stay updated on the latest career news, insights and more.