Disney CEO Bob Iger is a lot of things–chief executive officer, negotiator, team leader, organizer, and public relations specialist–but he’s not a screenwriter. So why is he at the center of the Writers’ Guild strike?
Negotiations between the Writers’ Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been taking place for weeks–but there was much more talk than actual negotiations, and when those talks dissipated, writers went on strike–12,000 of them who are responsible for the scripts, the storylines, the quips, the laugh lines, and the plots of most of the popular television shows, movies, podcasts, streaming shows, late night shows, and more.
Shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, as well as other fan-favorite shows, have already begun to feel the effects of the WGA strike.
In Hollywood, when you don’t have writers, you don’t have anything.
The current strike that began earlier this week is the first since a strike in 2007 that lasted for 100 days and cost the Los Angeles economy a whopping $2.1 billion. But the idea of a strike didn’t just begin. Several issues were at stake during negotiations–one of which involves Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Iger was called back from retirement in November 2022 when Disney’s board announced its decision to remove former CEO Bob Chapek. After accepting a two-year contract with The Walt Disney Company, Iger immediately set about the work of righting the ship at Disney. And the Writers’ Guild has no problem with that. They do, however, have a problem with his salary–and the salary of many of the Hollywood studio CEOs, as it seems they continue to get hefty raises while writers–the backbone of every single Hollywood show, film, streaming show, podcast, etc.–aren’t being fairly compensated.
The Guild put together an infographic that details the salaries of eight Hollywood top execs and then distributed it. To say that the information did not sit well with writers would be an understatement. The eight execs featured on the infographic represent Discovery, Disney, FOX, Netflix, Comcast (Universal), and others. Their total salaries, when combined, exceeded $773 million.
The Writers’ Guild takes issue with the fact that the salaries of CEOs like Disney’s Bob Iger continue to rise. Per Deadline:
CEO compensation last year averaged about $32 million for 13 CEOs at 12 media companies (Netflix has co-CEOs), with several executives crossing the $50 million mark. Packages featured a mix of cash and equity awards. “But all of them will look astounding to shareholders in the context of salaries elsewhere,” said Rosanna Weaver, a pay expert at the nonprofit shareholder advocacy group As You Sow.
Bob Chapek was CEO of Disney for the company’s entire FY 2022. His pay dipped to $24 million from $32 million the year before. Chapek, who was abruptly replaced by Bob Iger last November, exited with a cash and stock package valued at about $20 million.
Iger, who had been executive chairman until retiring from Disney in December of 2021, earned $15 million for FY 2022. His new package as CEO is worth about $27 million for each year of his two-year term. Disney has taken heat from shareholders in the past on Iger’s pay. He had a $46-million package in FY 2021. The company is in the process of cutting $5 billion in costs and laying off 7,000 staffers.
It’s not clear how long the strike will last, but what does seem evident is the willingness of both sides to stand their ground for the foreseeable future.