Disney brought back Bob Iger to take over as CEO and right the ship at the company, but a decision he made in 2019 has come back to bite him in the mouse ears–and it could spell (serious, long-term) trouble for Disney.
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Has there ever been a chief executive officer with more of a rock star fan-following than Disney’s Bob Iger? Though there are some who find him less palatable than others, on the whole, Bob Iger is widely well-received by Cast Members and Disney fans alike.
When news of Bob Chapek’s demise hit the media’s information superhighway on November 20, shockwaves of joy and celebration were seen and heard at both U. S. Disney Parks. But it was the news of Iger’s reinstatement at Disney that spurred downright elation in fans everywhere who felt they’d received a double Thanksgiving blessing.
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In early December, as Iger and his wife, Willow Bay, made their way to the Candlelight Processional at Disneyland, they did so as crowds of elated Guests rushed the newly-installed CEO, hoping to be one of the ones to which he responded, much like a throng of fans rushes to get a glimpse of a rock star and have him sign her arm.
Though it hasn’t always been sunshine and Mickey ice cream bars for Bob Iger, the 71-year-old veteran CEO has always exuded his own brand of tact, diplomacy, and virtual crowd control that allow him to embrace and address less-than-favorable circumstances with more-than-favorable outcomes. In fact, when you read about Iger’s tenure with the Walt Disney Company, it’s largely a positive read.
While Iger was Disney’s CEO from 2005 to 2020, Disney Parks added two new theme park resorts–Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in November 2005 and Shanghai Disney Resort in June 2016. During his tenure, the company also rolled out the Disney+ streaming platform and the ESPN+ streaming service. Disney Studios also produced several record-setting films, including the highest-grossing film of all time: Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame.
To say that Iger has had a successful run as CEO would be understating those successes. But one of his decisions as CEO might not have been his best, and it is coming back to wreak havoc on him.
Iger is credited with broadening the scope of the Disney brand by acquiring numerous intellectual properties, like PIXAR, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and others. And while those acquisitions have largely been good for The Walt Disney Company, at least one of them is proving to be problematic for the brand.
Iger spearheaded and oversaw Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox. The deal was sealed for a reported $71.3 billion on March 20, 2019, though the deal was announced in late 2017. But unlike other IPs Disney has purchased over the years, 21st Century Fox may be creating problems for Disney that even Disney magic can’t solve. And those problems aren’t in the “yet-to-be” or “future” category. In fact, at this point in the company’s timeline, it’s the success of James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water that is keeping those issues hidden and under wraps, at least for now.
According to The Wrap, Iger’s decision to acquire 21st Century Fox may have been his biggest mistake:
As adult-skewing movies struggle in theaters and Wall Street changes the rules in the streaming war, Disney’s purchase of Fox’s studio properties may prove to be Iger’s biggest blunder, dealing lasting damage to the company’s reputation among shareholders for media-merger magic. The idea that Disney could take any given property, get audiences to associate it with its megabrand, and make it an even bigger cross-platform commercial success was part of how it sold Wall Street on the notion of total entertainment dominance.
Now with a weaker stock currency, heavier debt load, and skeptical investors, Iger has the harder challenge of squeezing performance out of an existing portfolio. He may not be able to buy his way out of this one.
Simply put, Iger has no choice but to right the Fox ship–and that’s while he works to navigate the trail of problems brought on by former CEO Bob Chapek’s poor decision-making and missteps, which have been in the spotlight over the last year. Only time will tell whether Bob Iger and his Disney regime can find and implement the solutions necessary to overcome issues brought about by the Disney/21st Century Fox acquisition.
Failure in the area could rewrite the narrative about Bob Iger’s tenure at The Walt Disney Company.