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Disney’s CEO Hangs On, But a Skeleton Lurking in His Closet From 2019 Could End it ALL

disney ceo bob iger wears tuxedo and has two skeletons leaning on him
Credit: New York Post/Disney/Canva

Disney’s boomerang CEO holds on, as the company announced last week that Bob Iger’s contract, set to expire in 2024, would be extended to 2026, but a skeleton in Iger’s closet from 2019 could lead to Disney’s demise, and no one seems to be talking about that.

RELATED: Bob Iger’s Bad Decision in 2019 is Causing Chaos for Disney in 2023

Bob iger wears a tuxedo and stands in front of a wall with disney written in neon letters

Credit: Disney/Canva

Look around, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a chief executive officer with more of a celebrity following than Disney’s veteran CEO Robert A. Iger. Though some Disney fans like him more than others, Iger has a long history with the company, and over the years, he has garnered the support and even the admiration of Disney fans, many Cast Members, Disney Company executives, Hollywood celebrities, and some of Wall Street’s finest.

And as proven by two of its most newsworthy decisions over the last eight months, Iger also does very well with Disney’s Board. In November 2022, they voted to reinstate Bob Iger as The Walt Disney Company CEO, replacing a disgraced Bob Chapek following a laundry list of happenings and bad decisions at Disney–an apparent series of missteps on Chapek’s part–that ultimately forced the board’s hand in removing him from his post as CEO. Then, late last week, the board voted again, this time to extend Iger’s two-year contract by 24 months, netting the agreement a brand-new expiration date of December 31, 2026.

RELATED: Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract By Two Years

As news of Chapek’s removal became a viral story across every conceivable news outlet on Sunday evening, November 20, 2022, there were roars, screams, and various other exaltations from Disney fans around the globe who couldn’t contain their joy over what seemed like a Thanksgiving miracle–especially among fans who were visiting the domestic Disney Parks at the time of the announcement. And when the following newsy tidbit unveiled the name of Chapek’s replacement, the elation among fans was nearly palpable.

Just two weeks later, in early December, as Iger, accompanied by his wife, Willow Bay, walked toward the Candlelight Processional at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, they were forced to make their way through crowds of elated Guests who couldn’t help but rush the veteran CEO and express their excitement about his triumphant return.

Per a post from DisneyDining in February 2023, Bob Iger had his work cut out for him upon his return to the chief role at Disney:

“When Iger stepped back into the role, the House of Mouse was a shambles, to say the least. Diehard Disney fans made up a majority of the steady stream of visitors at rival Universal’s theme parks, signaling a dissatisfaction among many who had long loved the Mouse. And only two weeks before Chapek’s removal, the company shared some of the most dismal earnings numbers in recent years. Cast Members throughout the Florida parks were in the middle of heated, unproductive negotiations with Disney when it came to wages, and the company was made the ‘Worst of the Woke’ list for the second year in a row.”

mickey head on 21st century fox logo

Credit: Canva

To say that Iger has a knack for this “CEO thing” and that his years at Disney’s helm have been successful would be an understatement. He is credited with broadening Disney’s scope by overseeing the acquisition of dozens of intellectual properties, the most notable being PIXAR, Lucasfilm, and Marvel–all of which have largely proven to be lucrative purchases. But one acquisition driven by Iger in 2019 has been nothing short of a financial nightmare for The Walt Disney Company, but it seems measures have been taken to keep the less-than-successful decision on Iger’s part less-than-loudly-publicized.

RELATED: Here’s How a Boy From Minnesota Helped PIXAR Survive the Scandal Involving Its Former Chief

A deal between Disney and 21st Century Fox was struck in late 2017 but wasn’t completed until March 20, 2019. The deal was inked for a reported $71.3 billion, making it the most costly acquisition ever undertaken by The Walt Disney Company. In fact, as of April 2023, The Walt Disney Company had completed 19 acquisitions, which cost the company more than $87.10 billion, meaning that almost 82% of that total was spent on acquiring 21st Century Fox.

But unlike the promising and lucrative acquisitions of PIXAR Animation Studios in 2006, Marvel in 2009, and Lucasfilm in 2012, the acquisition of 21st Century Fox has been anything but lucrative, and the general public might not even realize how bad a decision the deal with Fox has been for Disney because of the success of one film–James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. The wild success of the second film in the Avatar franchise has hidden issues with the Disney-Fox deal, at least for now.

How 'Avatar: The Way of Water' Created an Alien Underwater World – The  Hollywood Reporter

“Avatar: The Way of Water”/Credit: Disney/21st Century Fox

According to The Wrap, Iger’s choice to acquire 21st Century Fox might be the worst decision of the veteran CEO’s career at Disney:

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.”

RELATED: Disney’s CFO is Out Amid Serious Allegations of Illegal Business Practices

mickey mouse hand holding onto characters from 21st century fox

Credit: Variety

In short, Bob Iger can’t go around the Fox problem. He must find a way to correct the situation the allegedly poorly-executed deal has created for Disney. And while finding that solution is of the utmost importance for The Walt Disney Company, it comes in addition to Iger’s responsibilities related to righting the greater financial ship at Disney following poor decisions executed by former CEO Bob Chapek and seeking, hiring, training, and mentoring his successor over the remainder of his current contract term.

But general knowledge about the Disney-Fox acquisition doesn’t tell the whole story–one that includes facts about the mammoth percentage of Disney’s acquisition dollars that went into the deal, as well as the fact that the deal has left The Walt Disney Company with more than $47 billion in debt–and only time will tell whether the Iger regime will rise to the occasion and implement the necessary solutions to overcome the problematic nature of the Disney-21st Century Fox deal and whether Disney’s board made the right decision in keeping him on as CEO for an additional 24 months.

bob iger makes a smirk

Credit: New York Post

Though Iger’s success story has been a fairly good read to this point, failure on the popular CEO’s part in this area now could ultimately lead to a very different narrative about his tenure at Disney.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!