Disney Rushes to Hire a Crisis & Disaster Expert to Fix Company’s Image After CEO Bob Iger’s Recent “Catastrophic” Blunder

bob iger and flames and SAG AFTRA
Credit: Disney/Business Insider/Canva

Disney’s veteran CEO Bob Iger is losing the footing he once had in the entertainment industry and in Hollywood, and his recent public plunder now has the company in a panic to hire a crisis and disaster executive to repair the damage Iger has done to the company–for the sake of its reputation, and as a potential lead-up to a sale of the entire Walt Disney Company.

disney castle walt disney statue disney world bob iger and walt disney

Credit: Becky Burkett/Disney/Canva

Disney’s hurting for money. Really hurting. At least that’s what was presented to investors during The Walt Disney Company’s first-quarter earnings call in February 2023, when CEO Bob Iger shared some largely impressive numbers that squashed Wall Street analysts’ projections for the company’s financial snapshot.

Iger’s Second Era Starts Out on a Positive Note–and Quickly Goes South

Disney saw huge improvements across several categories during the company’s fiscal first quarter, especially as they were compared to the previous quarter’s dismal returns, news of which was released just days before Disney’s announcement of then-CEO Bob Chapek’s removal and largely served as the final nail in his termination. In Disney’s fiscal first quarter, revenue grew to $23.5 billion, an increase of 8% over the previous year. And the Company’s earnings per share increased to $0.99. Though Iger had only been at his reinstated post for little more than a month when fiscal first quarter ended, the numbers still looked good for him.

But nearly immediately after he finished unveiling how many billions of dollars Disney Parks guests shelled out between October 1 and December 31, 2022, Iger switched modes–as if he were an animatronic robot at Disney World.

“After a solid first quarter, we are embarking on a significant transformation,” Iger said during the earnings call, “one that will maximize the potential of our world-class creative teams and our unparalleled brands and franchises. We believe the work we are doing to reshape our company around creativity while reducing expenses will lead to sustained growth and profitability for our streaming business, better position us to weather future disruption and global economic challenges, and deliver value for our shareholders.”

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

Credit: Disney/Canva

The silver-tongued CEO delivered his address so well and with such eloquence and diplomacy that it took a few seconds for those listening in to realize that Iger was giving a few scant details about a complete restructuring of The Walt Disney Company already in the works, the eradication of 4% of the company’s workforce (approximately 7,000 Disney employees), and giving his audience a somewhat blurred snapshot of his blueprints for stopping the financial bleed at Disney, the symptoms of which had already begun revealing themselves.

The drastic changes about which Iger talked didn’t sit well with some, and for others, questions about Iger’s decisions began to surface.

Iger’s “significant transformation” might have better been described as a near-apocalyptic transformation, as the veteran CEO wore the goal of the “transformation” like a banner–to slash $5.5 billion in expenses across the company, and fast. For good measure, he added that the changes would take effect “immediately.”

Disney Layoffs Expected as Bob Iger Restructures DMED Division – The Hollywood Reporter

Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

The earnings call in February was followed by weeks of uncertainty for Disney employees around the globe, as it wasn’t clear who would be let go and who would remain. But after three “waves” of layoffs, including a mass exodus of employees at ABC News and a restructuring of the group, things were very clear. By the company’s own admission, Disney had rid itself of many of its “useless” and “replaceable” employees.

RELATED: Here’s Hoping These “Useless” Disney Cast Members Are the First to Go

A Bad Decision in 2019 Has Come Back to Haunt the Veteran CEO

During his first 15-year stint as CEO at Disney, Bob Iger’s name nearly became synonymous with the words acquisition and merger. Under his direction, Disney successfully acquired PIXAR, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, in addition to several smaller acquisitions, adding to its vast array of offerings around the world. Iger’s prowess for handling the business of acquiring other entities has long been his strong suit. But a decision he made about an acquisition in 2019 has come back to bite him in the mouse ears–and it could spell (serious, long-term) trouble for Disney.

Bob Iger's Major Slip-Up Could Ultimately Be What Kills Disney - Disney  Dining

In 2017, a deal between Disney and 20th Century Fox was announced, though it wouldn’t be finalized until March 20, 2019. The purchase price: $71.3 billion. But unlike Iger’s previous acquisitions and mergers, acquiring Fox has put the Mouse House in a mess. Not only has Disney amassed more than $44 billion in debt because of the deal, but 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.

The situation has marred Iger’s otherwise impressive record of broadening Disney’s scope in the entertainment arena.

Iger Enrages “Half of Hollywood” With His Comments

Recently, however, Iger made near-enemies out of a group that has largely been part of his base, and Disney is now in a race against time to hire a crisis management expert to deal with the fall-out that resulted from his comments about the ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes.

Per Reuters, Iger angered members of the SAG-AFTRA actors union this month by saying their demands for a labor contract with higher pay and limits on use of artificial intelligence were “unreasonable.”

“It’s very disturbing to me,” Iger said when asked about the strikes on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”

Iger also said that while he acknowledges the rights of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions to “get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people,” they must “be realistic about the business environment, and what this business can deliver.”

The interview was touted as a catastrophe, and those on strike were angered by the sentiments shared by Disney’s chief.

“We’re unrealistic when he’s making $78,000 a day,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher during an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Drescher went on to say that Iger “stuck his foot in it so bad that you notice they’re not letting any of the other CEOs open their mouths.”

Fran Drescher Interview: SAG Strike, Bob Iger and Vaccines - Variety

Credit: Variety

Because of the debacle, Disney is looking to hire an executive “with the goal of enhancing and protecting reputation” by “manag[ing] reputation research.” The person Disney seeks will also “develop [a] reputation campaign calendar as part of a comprehensive plan that will include paid advertising as well as earned media.”

One posting says Disney is offering up to $337,920 for VP of public affairs who will be in charge of a “communications team to assist senior executives in preparing for media events” and “interviews.”

Disney says the position is one that has been in place for 15 years, but the timing of the new posting, as well as the attractive salary and the description of several job responsibilities make it clear that the company is looking to do some damage control, put out fires, and rescue Disney’s reputation–a potential scrubbing-up of the company in preparation for a sale of The Walt Disney Company to another entity. Time will tell.

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!