Just over one month ago, Susan Arnold — the Chairwoman of Disney’s Board of Directors — shocked Disney fans around the world when she announced that Disney CEO Bob Chapek was fired and former CEO Bob Iger would be taking the reins, effective immediately. The move was cheered by many, as Chapek had never been very popular and Disney’s good name had tanked in the less than three years Chapek had been at the helm. When Chapek was promoted to CEO, Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro was promoted to Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.
The position to which D’Amaro was promoted was the one held by Chapek before he became CEO. During his short time as CEO, Chapek worked closely with D’Amaro to institute a number of unpopular changes within Disney Parks — most notably, the theme park reservation system and the elimination of the free FastPass system, and the institution of the paid Genie+ system.
While Chapek caught most of the blame for the changes — as he should since he was CEO — many also turned their anger on D’Amaro. Chapek was not popular, but the vibrant and personable D’Amaro also saw his popularity drop, as people considered him the next Chapek. However, an in-depth new report from The Wall Street Journal has revealed that the two may not have been as close as everyone thought.
In fact, Disney insiders were worried that D’Amaro might have quit before Chapek was fired.
There was a lot of trouble brewing inside the Walt Disney Company. Chapek was brash and was consistently working on ways to take creative power away from the creative executives. He had also abruptly fired executive Peter Rice, the Chairman of Disney General Content. Rice was incredibly popular, and the firing came as a shock to everyone.
On top of that, Chapek was increasingly finding himself at odds with CFO Christine McCarthy, an Iger loyalist. Chapek was consistently accusing McCarthy of making him look bad. Per The Wall Street Journal:
As the environment inside Disney’s C-suite worsened, more executives voiced concerns in phone calls to Mr. Iger. Some worried Alan Bergman, the studio chief, and Josh D’Amaro, head of the parks division, might quit. In June, Mr. Chapek had abruptly fired Peter Rice, Disney’s highest-ranking TV content executive, a move that remained on the minds of many creative leaders at the company.
After Disney’s absolutely dismal Fourth Quarter Earnings Call, McCarthy learned that Chapek was planning on throwing her under the bus and blaming everything on her. It was then that McCarthy decided to go all in on getting Chapek out. Had Chapek gotten to her first, it is unknown if D’Amaro would have stayed with Disney.
D’Amaro has remained quiet since Chapek’s firing. During a Town Hall-style meeting hosted by Iger after his return, Iger said he was working closely with D’Amaro on examining things within the Parks, like the controversial reservation system. It has been reported that Chapek was planning on eliminating the reservation system, but Iger has not confirmed anything.