On November 8, The Walt Disney Company held its Fourth Quarter Earnings Call and things weren’t great. Yes, Disney reported a whopping $28 billion in profit, but multiple areas of the company underperformed. Disney+ added 12 million subscribers, but Disney’s “revenue per user” for Disney+ came in under what analysts were predicting. Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products also brought in less than what analysts were predicting. In the hours after the call, Disney stock dropped more than 13%.
With such a dismal earnings call, many are asking, “How much longer is Disney going to hold on to Bob Chapek?”.
Bob Chapek became CEO in February 2020, less than one month before Disney had to close down all of its theme park and halt all of its film and television productions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a difficult time for everyone, but not everyone had just taken the reins at one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. Chapek handled that about as well as anyone could expect.
The way that Chapek handled things during the height of the pandemic isn’t the thing that most people have an issue with. It’s how he has handled nearly everything after.
Visiting a Disney Resort — primarily Walt Disney World Resort in Florida — has never been a cheap experience. However, things now are more expensive than ever. Disney also used to help Guests out by offering popular freebies, like transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and FastPasses that would get you to the front of the line.
Since Chapek has taken over, Disney airport transportation — the Magical Express — has been discontinued and the free FastPass system has been replaced with Genie+ — a complicated system whose price fluctuates daily. And if you want to get on some of the really popular rides, like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you have to pay separately for that, as it is not included with the Genie+ service.
In addition to getting rid of popular freebies, prices for nearly everything else at Disney Parks are higher than ever. From Disney Park tickets to Resort hotel rooms, and even bottles of water, everything is more expensive and many people are noticing that food portions are shrinking while the prices are rising.
Recently, Chapek has touted how happy Guests are and how much money they spend while at the Parks. However, that doesn’t seem to follow what Guests are saying. Guests are being vocal about their dissatisfaction with Disney — a survey was even done where more than 60 percent of those surveyed said Disney has “lost its magic”. Guests frequently share photos of broken theme park animatronics on rides and overflowing trash cans, which used to be a rarity.
Many Guests have also voiced that they feel that if they don’t purchase things like Genie+, they won’t experience most of what Disney World has to offer.
While Disney’s Board may be able to ignore Guest complaints because profits are soaring, they may not be as willing to ignore Disney’s stock price. Every time Chapek speaks, he talks about the importance of the shareholders. He may talk about them a little too much if you ask some people. In the past year, Disney stock is down a massive 35%, which is probably not making those shareholders very happy.
When Disney released its Earnings Report, it was revealed that Disney’s Earnings-Per-Share was $.30, while analysts had anticipated it would be $.55. Disney missed the mark by 46%. Something else that shareholders were sure to be upset about. In addition to informing people about how much the company makes for each share of its stock, the Earnings-Per-Share metric is also used to estimate corporate value, so missing the mark by almost half can be a big cause for concern.
Not long after the Earnings Call, former hedge fund manager and investment professional Jim Cramer said Chapek was “delusional” and said that Disney absolutely needed to fire him.
This past summer, Disney’s Board of Directors extended Chapek’s contract by three years — and included a minimum $20 million annual bonus. What remains to be seen is if Chapek will live out his contract, or if Disney’s Board will decide to terminate the contract and just pay him out.