To say that Bob Chapek’s tenure as CEO of The Walt Disney Company has been tumultuous might be an understatement. Chapek has dealt with massive unpopularity — which includes a petition to get him fired that has amassed over 75,000 signatures — as fans see Disney eliminate free programs like FastPass and replace them with paid ones like Disney Genie+, as well as increase prices for something they feel is declining in value.
In his defense, Chapek became CEO right before Disney — and the world — experienced an unprecedented disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced Disney to shut down all of its theme parks across the globe, and the company laid off and furloughed tens of thousands of employees. The Company has stated that COVID had a massive impact on them as they lost hundreds of millions of dollars, but fans are seemingly fed up with that excuse.
Chapek continued to gain the ire of Disney fans when Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson sued the company, claiming that they violated her contract when they chose to release Black Widow on Disney+ the same day they released it in theaters. Johansson and Disney went back and forth, but eventually came to an amicable settlement and Johansson will be returning to the company to work on the new Tower of Terror movie.
Disney fans around the world are constantly referring to Chapek as a “bean-counter” — someone who places extreme emphasis on controlling budget and expenditures — and they also see him as a cost-cutter who is creating a company that is charging more while continuing to give less. Chapek likes to think of himself as having his eye on all parts of The Walt Disney Company and dislikes the “bean counter” and “cost cutter” reputation he is gaining.
According to a recent article in Financial Times:
The notion that he is merely a bean-counter irks Chapek. “I’ve seen creativity in this company through every lens possible,” he says in an exclusive interview. He compares running the theme parks with observing “a focus group every day” that gave him a unique perspective on “what makes the Walt Disney Company so different from any other media company”. He adds, “It ties us to our ultimate constituent, which is the consumer.”
In addition to Disney fans not being the biggest fans of Chapek, there have also been reports about tension between Chapek and former Disney CEO Bob Iger — who recently warned that Disney may face trouble for what he perceives as the current lack of innovation and lack of strategy.
Iger recently fully stepped away from The Walt Disney Company, where he was Executive Chairman after stepping down as CEO in 2020. His departure saw Susan Arnold — who has been with the company for almost 15 years — take over as Chairperson of the Board.