Disney CEO Bob Iger has reportedly decided to stay with the company beyond his current contract, which was originally set to expire in December 2024, but even Wall Street’s finest can only make their best guesses as to why Iger and Disney may have come to such a decision.
The clock is ticking for Disney’s veteran CEO, who was reinstalled as chief of The Walt Disney Company in November 2022 after a grueling and miserable company earnings call earlier that month cast Disney’s financial dealings into a very negative spotlight and put the final nail in the proverbial coffin of then-CEO Bob Chapek.
In January 2022, rumors about Bob Iger’s return to the Disney Company as CEO began to take root. That is until the Mouse House mogul cleared things up during an episode of The New York Times Sway podcast, during which he talked with host Kara Swisher about his retirement, the Disney Company, and his thoughts on where media as a whole was headed. When Swisher asked Iger why he had chosen to retire in December 2021, he responded by saying, “I always wanted to leave when I felt like I still had it in me to do more, but that things were good and I didn’t want to tempt fate.”
When Swisher told Iger there were rumors about his possible return to The Walt Disney Company, he called the idea “ridiculous,” saying he had already given up his name tag, his office, and his email address with the company. “It’s all gone,” he explained. But the rumors weren’t heard along Main Street, but around Wall Street, with CNBC reporting that an anonymous executive had predicted Iger’s return to the CEO’s office suite in Burbank sometime in 2022, citing a continued drop in the price of Disney’s stock, as well as “turf tensions between executives.” The unnamed executive further claimed that, at the time, there were “already internal wagers at Disney.”
It’s unclear when Bob Iger became aware of Disney’s plans to see him return.
While Chapek’s removal and Iger’s reinstallment in November 2022 sent shockwaves through the Disney community and Wall Street, such a move on Disney’s part shouldn’t have been such a surprise–and not just because of the rumors in early 2022. Before Iger officially retired from The Walt Disney Company on December 31, 2021, he had made plans to retire three times already–in 2015, 2016, and 2018. But every time the date of his planned retirement approached, new deals were made, and Disney announced that Iger would hold on just a little longer.
Iger had been retired for less than 11 months when news broke of his return to Disney as the company’s CEO. Disney’s offer to Iger came with a two-year contract, originally set to expire in December 2024. While Iger’s tasks as the reinstated CEO would largely center around righting the financial ship at the Disney Company, he would also be tasked with helping to select and mentor a successor. Now, however, according to FOX Business, the boomerang CEO may stay a little longer yet again, as Iger is reportedly looking to extend his contract beyond its original expiration date.
Disney $DIS CEO Bob Iger is reportedly likely to seek a contract extension beyond his current one, which expires in December of next year – Fox Business
— Evan (@StockMKTNewz) July 6, 2023
A ‘Very Rushed Succession Process’
Benzinga News reports that the proposal to extend Iger’s contract isn’t the Disney Legend’s idea alone. Rather, Iger may ultimately have his contract extended as The Walt Disney Company “faces hurdles in finding a successor” for Iger when his current contract expires in December 2024. In May 2023, Bloomberg reported that Disney was facing a “very rushed succession process” as it looks to replace Iger. Peter Chernin, a former News Corp executive, gave some insight into Disney’s plight during the Qatar Economic Forum that month.
“It’s a slightly weird thing to say, ‘within two years, I’m out again,’” Chernin said. “On some level, this time next year, [The Walt Disney Company] should know who his successor is.”
Leading Contender for the Role of Iger’s Successor Suddenly Departs
Only weeks after Iger took the reins at Disney once again, following Chapek’s removal, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy was the frontrunner in rumors about Iger’s probable replacement. But McCarthy, along with Bob Chapek and Chapek’s entertainment chief at Disney, Kareem Daniel, was named in a class-action lawsuit brought against the company by shareholders who allege the trio engaged in unlawful business practices as they pertained to Disney+, the company’s streaming platform. Only weeks after news of the lawsuit broke, McCarthy announced she’d be stepping down from her post on a family medical leave that began on July 1, 2023, and will end on June 30, 2023–the same day she’ll wrap up her tenure with Disney for good.
Many have speculated that McCarthy’s alleged involvement in “unlawful business practices” at Disney and the impending lawsuit against the company were key factors in her decision to step down.
With no viable candidates within the company, it’s uncertain where Disney will look next for valuable, viable candidates with the skill set, capabilities, and understanding of the necessary creative processes that are imperative for the company’s next chief, but it’s clear that time is not on the company’s side as it proceeds to do so.