New evidence suggests Bob Chapek was never meant to succeed at Disney because Bob Iger never meant to leave. An explosive new expose tells the story of succession gone wrong and corporate intrigue from a point of view that blows the lid entirely off the “white knight” image Bob Iger hopes we have of him.
It is no secret that Bob Chapek was an incredibly unpopular CEO, perhaps the most unpopular CEO The Walt Disney Company has ever seen (though having lived through the Eisner Era, that may be debatable). Did he deserve all of the hate he received? Perhaps. Perhaps he also got a bad rap for things Iger would rather us not mention.
Like the fact that he refused to relinquish his office after Bob Chapek succeeded him, becoming the 8th CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Iger claims it was because he enjoyed that the office had a shower in it, but is it as simple as that? Could it be that he enjoyed the power the “big office” gave him? That is purely conjecture, of course, but the fact that he didn’t give the new CEO the CEO’s office does have a feeling of significance.
It’s even more significant when you consider what hung in the bathroom Bob Iger was so unwilling to give up. Framed on the wall was a movie poster for Clint Eastwood’s film “The Eiger Sanction.” He had his face superimposed on the poster and changed the wording to “The Iger Sanction.” To fully grasp the significance, you’d need to know a bit about that film. I’ll spare you an in-depth synopsis and summarize it: It’s about an assassin who comes out of retirement for one last job. Does that seem like anyone we know?
Then comes Bob Iger’s refusal to actually retire. Though he was no longer CEO, he continued to hold on to the company as its Chairman. He also retained control of the creative side of the company’s operations. Many close to the situation said, “A CEO cannot be effective without control of all parts of the business operations.” Iger disregarded this advice and held on essentially until the year Disney brought him back. He officially walked away from the company in December 2021. That means Disney was Iger-less for just 11 months.
Rumors flew about tension between Chapek and Iger, but neither of them ever confirmed animosity. They remained “Disney Nice,’ a term for remaining conflict-free in public and never truly letting their feelings be known. Sources close to the pair, however, tell a different story—one where, rather than teammates, the two Bob’s were bitter adversaries.
In 2020, just after Coronvirus had shut down the parks, the tension came to a head. It began when Iger refused to dispute a claim by the New York Times that he was “back in charge” after “a few weeks of letting Mr. Chapek take charge.” Iger contributed a statement to the article saying, “A crisis of this magnitude [Covid], and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!”
Chapek was enraged! He called Iger and sources present for the call report that he said some very un-Disney-like expletives. Chapek told Iger that he “didn’t need a savior.” The pair exchanged heated words and ended the call without resolution. Iger told those present that he had never been spoken to that way by a colleague. Was this the beginning of the end for Chapek? Did openly provoking Iger mean war?
After the argument, Iger began a subtle smear campaign. The kind where you can direct people’s opinions while still claiming plausible deniability. He would grumble to colleagues that Chaoek didn’t include him in decisions. He would entertain complaints about Chapek rather than shutting them down and expressing support. By June, the board was excluding Chapek from executive calls– all at Iger’s request.
In similar corporate battles, both Iger and Chapek would have been referred to mediation to resolve the tension. Disney never requested it. Instead, Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board at Disney, implored Chapek to be patient, not to engage, not to rock the boat. Chapek was painted as the villain. A company built on storytelling was seemingly blind to the plot twist happening right in front of them.
Chapek would later be unceremoniously replaced mid-contract, partially at Arnold’s behest. The ousting of Bob Chapek happened on a Sunday night while he was scheduled to appear at a farewell event for music icon Elton John representing the company. The news blindsided him, and Bob Iger addressed employees as the new CEO before the event had even ended.
A representative for Bob Chapek told CNBC, “Bob is proud of the work he did in the course of his 30-year career at Disney, particularly during his nearly three-year run as CEO, steering the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and setting the course for business transformation as he and his team took the disruptive yet necessary steps for business revitalization and long-term growth.”