LOS ANGELES • Veteran Walt Disney executive Tom Staggs, who had been seen as the media company's next chief executive, will step down on May 6 as the board expands its search for a successor to Mr Bob Iger, Disney said.
The unexpected move came little more than a year after Mr Staggs was promoted to chief operating officer, and about two years before Mr Iger, Disney's chief executive and chairman, is due to retire.
A source with knowledge of the situation said Mr Staggs, 55, had learnt that he was not guaranteed the CEO job and that the board was going to broaden its search for a new leader. Mr Staggs and the company mutually decided he should step down, said the source.
Disney, which operates television networks, theme parks and a movie studio, said the board aimed to evaluate a "robust slate of candidates".
Mr Iger has led Disney to record profits and executed successful acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment and Star Wars producer Lucasfilm. But he acknowledged subscriber declines at Disney's sports network ESPN, raising concern among investors about how the channel will adapt to the online streaming technology luring viewers away from traditional TV.
Disney's board may have decided the company needs a new CEO with more experience in technology to navigate that change, Edward Jones analyst Robin Diedrich said.
"How do you transition to that five, 10, 15 years out?" said Ms Diedrich, who recommends buying Disney shares. "There may be a need there for someone who has more experience with that consumer trend that is certainly here to stay."
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, who sits on the Disney board, has been seen as a potential candidate to head the company.