Bob Iger is returning to Walt Disney Co. less than a year after retiring as chief executive, a surprise comeback that coincides with the entertainment company’s attempt to bolster investor confidence and profits at its streaming media unit.
Ger, who retired last year after 15 years as chief executive, has agreed to serve as CEO for an additional two years, effective immediately, Disney said in a statement late Sunday. He will replace Bob Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in February 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, leading to park closures and visitor restrictions around the world.
Disney stock is down more than 40 percent so far this year, lagging the broader Down Jones Industrial Average’s nearly 7 percent year-to-date decline.
“The board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex phase of industry change, Bob Iger is in a unique position to lead the company through this pivotal phase,” said Susan Arnold, Chair of the statement .
Disney disappointed investors this month with an earnings report that showed mounting losses at its streaming media unit, which includes Disney+. Shares hit a 20-year low the day after fourth-quarter earnings.
The streaming business lost nearly $1.5 billion in the quarter, more than double the year-ago figure, and overshadowed subscriber gains. The unit, which competes with Netflix Inc, among others, has yet to turn a profit since its launch in 2019. Disney has announced that Disney+ will become profitable in fiscal 2024.
“I’m an optimist, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years at Disney, it’s that even in the face of uncertainty — perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty — our staff and cast members are achieving the impossible,” Iger said in a memo to Reuters staff seen.
Iger left Disney in great success as the company led the fight against rival Netflix in the streaming wars. During his tenure, Disney made several key acquisitions, including Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment, and 21st Century Fox, and grew its market cap fivefold.
During that second tour, Iger was tasked with “putting Disney on a path to renewed growth” and working with the board to find a successor, the company said.
There was no after-hours trading in Disney stock. The stock last closed at $91.80 on Friday, up 0.38 percent.
The change in leadership caught employees by surprise, two company sources said.
Outgoing Bob Chapek became CEO in February 2020, succeeding Iger, who remained at Disney through 2021 to ease the transition. The board only renewed Chapek’s contact in June.
During his short tenure, Chapek has had to deal with theme park closures and production shutdowns during the pandemic.
He got into an internal argument with staff, who slammed him for remaining silent on Florida laws that would restrict classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2021, Chapek also engaged in a highly publicized battle with Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel’s Black Widow movie, over Disney’s decision to release the film simultaneously in theaters and online. The dispute over compensation led to a court case that was settled within months.
In August, activist investor Daniel Loeb began pushing for changes at Disney, including spinning off ESPN sports television network and accelerating its proposed acquisition of Hulu from minority owner Comcast Corp. The investor later tweeted that he better understood ESPN’s value to Disney.
Shortly after Iger’s return to Disney was announced, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings tweeted, “Ugh. I was hoping Iger would run for President. He is unbelievable.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/world/disney-brings-back-bob-iger-as-ceo-in-bid-to-boost-growth-42160009.html Disney brings back Bob Iger as CEO to spur growth