Bob Iger Felt Chapek Lacked Empathy, the Pandemic Made That Clear

Bob Chapek Bob Iger
Bob Chapek (left) / Bob Iger (right)

It’s been a whirlwind few days, but Bob Iger is once again settling into his role as Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Company. Iger became CEO again when Disney’s Board Chair Susan Arnold announced that Bob Chapek was being terminated, effective immediately. The news was shocking to many, even though Disney fans had been calling for Chapek’s firing since he became CEO in 2020.

Iger made a statement almost immediately after the announcement was made, but Chapek has remained silent. However, with Chapek finally gone, insiders are sharing more about what it was like to work for him and what led to Chapek’s estrangement from Iger.

Bob Iger and Bob Chapek

Credit: Disney

Iger appointed Chapek as his successor in February 2020 and almost immediately their relationship became strained. Those close to Iger revealed that Iger felt Chapek lacked empathy, which was made clear when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Disney was forced to close all of its theme parks, which led to the layoffs of thousands of Disney Park Cast Members. Iger wanted to hold off on letting the employees go, but Chapek didn’t want to wait.

Disneyland Closed

Credit: CNBC

In order to help those who were affected by COVID layoffs, the U.S. government passed the CARES act, which allowed for more money to be given out in unemployment payments. Insiders claim that Iger wanted to wait until the CARES act was passed before laying off the employees, that way they would immediately be able to take advantage of the benefits.

Chapek, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care and wanted to get rid of the employees. It didn’t matter to him how the employees would be affected or how they would be able to pay their bills. He was solely focused on how he could cut costs and save the company money, as it was bleeding cash from all the closures.

Bob Chapek ESPN

Credit: ESPN

Here’s more from a bombshell report from The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Iger overruled Mr. Chapek, these people said, and convinced the board that it was better to wait. Then-President Trump signed the bill into law in late March, and Disney began to furlough tens of thousands of workers in April. Mr. Chapek was infuriated, some of these people said, and complained to deputies he was being undermined from the minute he was promoted.

Mr. Iger, who had said he would focus on creative work as executive chairman, was interfering in day-to-day matters that were supposed to be the CEO’s domain, Mr. Chapek told his inner circle at the company, people familiar with the matter said.

Disney Cast Members

Credit: Disney

During his less than three years as CEO, Chapek never managed to have a strong relationship with Disney Cast Members. Chapek refused to speak out on Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” — which critics said targeted the LGBTQ+ community. Chapek said that the bill was “irrelevant” to Disney, completely disregarding the thousands of LGBTQ+ Cast Members that worked for Disney.

Chapek’s cold response only changed when he was called out numerous times. He then denounced the bill and told Cast Members he had “let them down”. But the apology came too late, and there were massive protests and walkouts from Cast Members at the Parks to those who worked at the studios in Burbank and San Francisco.

Pixar Walkout

Credit: Disney Walkout Twitter

Bob Iger is set to remain as CEO of The Walt Disney Company through December 31, 2024. At that time, a new CEO will be named. The last time Iger stepped down as CEO, he became Executive Chairman. He has not said if he will take over that role when he steps down again.

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!