Disney re-appointed Iger as CEO on Sunday night, effective immediately, after previous CEO Bob Chapek came under fire for his management of the entertainment giant. Chapek was named chief executive in February 2020, succeeding Iger, who had previously said he wouldn’t return to the role.
The company said Chapek stepped down. “We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Disney’s board chair. She will remain in that role.
The dramatic upheaval comes 11 months after Iger left the company, and days after Chapek said he planned to cut costs at the company, which had been burdened by swelling costs in its streaming service, Disney+. The company’s earnings release earlier this month vastly underperformed Wall Street’s expectations. Even its theme park business, which reported a surge in revenue, fell below what analysts had projected.
Shares of Disney have fallen about 41% so far this year, as of Friday’s close. The stock hit a 52-week low Nov. 9. Iger has signed on to work as CEO for two years, Disney said Sunday, “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.”
Chapek, whose contract as CEO was extended earlier this year, planned a hiring freeze, cost cuts and layoffs across the company, according to a memo CNBC obtained earlier this month. The internal memo came days after the company’s poor quarterly earnings report.
Iger is a widely respected and liked figure at Disney. He oversaw its deals to acquire Pixar, Lucasfilm and its “Star Wars” properties and Marvel – all of which have become multi-billion-dollar intellectual property behemoths. Iger, who held the CEO role for 15 years at Disney, had favored Chapek as his successor. The two ultimately had a falling out, and the shadow of their conflict cast a shadow over the company’s future.
Chapek, meanwhile, angered employees with his initial silence about the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, where the company’s Walt Disney World resort is located. Then, he received blowback from Republican politicians, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for opposing it. He also received heat for his handling of the controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s pay for her work in the Marvel movie “Black Widow.”