I don’t consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist. As a news writer, I like to ground myself in solid fact. Occasionally, though, something comes along that makes me go, “hmm…”. The business with Iger returning and Chapek’s swift exit is one of those things. It all seems a little too neat and tidy. A little too “expected but shocking.” Since the news of Chapek’s ousting and Iger’s return late Sunday night, fans everywhere (including amongst us in our writer’s room) have said, “this doesn’t feel like the whole story.”
I remember, at the time, thinking how convenient it was that Iger had taken his final bow just before the pandemic started. I dismissed it, of course, but it did give me a moment’s pause. The news of his return also gave a moment’s pause. Then I ran across someone’s theory that they proposed on Reddit just over a year ago that seems eerily accurate. See for yourself (note the time and date stamp):
That is…interesting. Could Chapek have been a puppet all along? Was he just “the fall guy?” Did we all fall for an elaborate ruse? Unlikely, but the idea is certainly worth exploring because there’s just enough there to make me want to don a tinfoil hat right alongside Redditor /u/sideofspread.
Bob Iger served as Disney’s CEO from September 2005- February 2020, delaying his retirement several times. He stayed through the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the launch of his brainchild Disney+, despite multiple retirement announcements before those occurred. February 2020 is significant because, at the time, the COVID-19 Pandemic was just ramping up in the United States. Changes were going to have to be made. Changes the fans wouldn’t like. Could the charismatic and popular CEO have seen the writing on the wall? Was his exit expertly timed to avoid that, installing Chapek to be “the guy everyone hates?”
Disney Genie+ is perhaps the change Disney Parks fans hate the most. It was implemented under Bob Chapek, and he’s the one who gets the blame for it. Fans decry “he ruined Disney” because of it. Meanwhile, the paid FastPass replacement was announced in 2019 under Iger’s direction. Iger, not Chapek, is responsible for Disney Genie+.
Iger also served on the board as a guide to Chapek until last year. Could he have been guiding him down the path to failure all along to set himself up to be the hero? Unlikely but more unlikely than all of his advice falling on deaf ears? Who’s to say? Is Bob Chapek just a stubborn, hard-headed fool who ignored all of Bob Iger’s experienced advice? That could be, but it also could be that he was following the advice given by his predecessor.
This is all purely conjecture, of course, and lives firmly in the realm of rumor and conspiracy. We are not asserting this is fact in any way, just simply that it is an interesting thought experiment and “wouldn’t it be wild if…?” The fact that someone devised this theory just over a year ago is also fascinating. Time will tell if there is any truth to it.