In early 2020, Disney CEO Bob Iger shocked and saddened Disney fans worldwide when he publicly announced that he would be stepping down from his CEO, effective immediately. Iger said that he would be stepping into the role of Executive Chairman and Bob Chapek would become CEO — with the two men working together for a smooth transition. Unfortunately, that smooth transition never happened, and the two men reportedly had a falling out and now barely speak. Iger has maintained his popularity with Disney fans — many of whom beg him to come back — while Chapek has struggled to find his footing, with petitions even circulating calling for his termination.
Now, in a bombshell new report from Business Insider, we are learning just how tumultuous Iger’s time working with Chapek was and how much he seems to regret the decision to name Chapek as his replacement. Per Business Insider:
Bob Iger thought he would spend his final year as Disney’s CEO on a global goodbye tour, bidding a personal adieu to the dignitaries and employees who helped create Shanghai Disney and theme parks from Tokyo to Paris.
Instead, according to several Disney sources and others familiar with Iger’s thinking, the executive spent 2020 and 2021 watching COVID-19 devastate the company he had led for 15 years — and regretting what he has called one of his worst business decisions: the selection of Bob Chapek as his successor.
According to insiders, Iger made an agreement with the Board of Directors that he would help guide Chapek as the company dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and as Chapek figured out his own direction as CEO. Sadly, things didn’t go that way and Chapek made a series of decisions that Iger did not agree with and, to Iger’s surprise, Disney’s Board stood behind the new CEO.
Since becoming CEO, Chapek has made a series of decisions that have not gone over well with Disney fans and Disney shareholders. Not only did Chapek get into a public spat with Marvel star Scarlett Johansson, but he also fumbled the company’s response to Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education bill. Most recently, Chapek abruptly fired Disney’s Head of General Content — Peter Rice. Many felt that Rice directly threatened Chapek’s role as CEO.
None of those sat well with Iger, and he has not been quiet with those he knows about his feelings. According to Business Insider:
While morale is described as terrible among many content-side executives, Wall Street is giving Chapek the benefit of the doubt for now, counting on a rebound at the company’s parks, where margins are expanding thanks to big price hikes. After hitting an all-time high of over $200 in March 2021, Disney’s share price has fallen 41% year-to-date.
Iger meanwhile has continued to voice his regrets. He has said he did not know that Chapek was such a “novice” when it came to handling complex issues like talent management and political battles, and that Chapek was arrogant and uninterested in other people’s opinions, said the former Disney exec. Chapek defenders say he has made bold moves in restructuring Disney and led huge capital spending projects at the parks. A Disney spokesman declined comment.
“For many of us who are deeply loyal to him,” Iger’s choice of Chapek was “confusing,” this person said. “No one expected it to fall apart this fast.”
Even though Iger is no longer a part of Disney and his relationship with Bob Chapek is non-existent, friends say that the former Disney executive is “still rooting for Disney to win.”