Disney CEO Bob Iger gave an interview that aired today regarding the state of Disney. It was a damage control PR move. Some powerhouses have recently expressed concern that Disney is in trouble and Iger appeared on CNBC’s Squawaaqk Box with David Farber to set the record straight. You could think of it as Mr. Igers own State of the Union address, it wasn’t too far off, but things took an unexpectedly morbid turn.
Iger touched on many of the topics you would expect : Star Wars and Marvel content are slowing, the Parks are doing great, box office failures were disappointing, but ultimately haven’t hurt the company. All very expected and very typical of this damage control. We have no reason to doubt anything he said, so don’t take our cavalier tone as disbelief, it’s just not particularly interesting because we’ve heard it all before.
What was interesting was when the topic rolled around to Mr. Iger’s contract extension. Iger said, “while a lot of work has been accomplished in the seven or so months that I’ve been back, the Board believes and I agree with them, that there was a lot more work to do. And the timetable that we initially established, which was two years, seemed like it was putting undue pressure on us.” He went on to explain that while they have worked quickly to make changes and improvements, there is simply too much to be done to right the ship in just 24 months. He also admitted that many of the problems Disney faces today have been self-inflicted.
A short time later Farber brought up Mr. Igers contract extension and questioned his ability to do the job because of his age. It was health concerns, competence, or track record that seemed to bother Farber, though, it was Iger’s life span! Farber questioned why Iger doesn’t just retire stating, “you know, your window’s closing on life, I just want to let you know that.” He continued saying, “You’re gonna be 75, almost 76 when you wrap this up now. I mean, you always look great. But do you really want to continue to do this?”
Iger for his part let the comment roll off his back, and attempted to steer the conversation back to the company but Farber doubled down. He pointed out that the Walt Disney Company is 100 this year and that Iger had been with the company for nearly half of that time. At this Iger was visibly shocked and struggled for words saying, “That’s actually, I never thought of it that way. Oh, dear.”
The “you’re going to die soon” (paraphrasing) direction the conversation took was surprising. Iger maintained his composure though and carried on with the interview, finishing strong by taking about how committed he is to doing a good job and how grateful and lucky he felt. He stated, “Well, I’m happy. Through all the challenges, when you go to work every day and you’re working for the Walt Disney Company, what could be bad.”