The entertainment industry has been taken by surprise at the announcement Bob Iger is standing down as CEO of Disney with immediate affect.
Iger, who has been in the role since 2005, will remain with the company as chairman until the end of his contract on 31st December 2021. He has been succeeded as CEO by Bob Chapek, a Disney veteran who heads up Disney’s parks division.
Timing of the announcement surprised both the industry and Wall Street. While Iger has been expected to announce his departure at some point, the suddenness has shocked many. Alice Enders, head of research at Enders Analysis, tells TVBEurope she was “a bit gobsmacked by his departure after no warning at all.
“However, he is going out with a very long run of unparalleled success as a studio boss, helped by lots of luck picking up great pieces of the Disney kingdom such as Lucasfilm, Pixar, DreamWorks,” Enders added.
In his statement announcing his departure, Iger said he had taken the decision to step down after the successful launch of Disney’s direct to consumer business, as well as the integration of 21st Century Fox. According to Enders, the success of the new D2C products such as Disney Plus will ultimately be judged after Iger’s departure.
Asked how much pressure Chapek will be under to continue Disney’s dominance, Enders says, “It’s been an easy ride for Iger, why should it be any different for Chapek?
“There’s not a whole lot of pressure at the box office from any competitors. Even its over-reliance on the blockbuster franchises is not a problem for Disney since it alone has the financial muscle and IP to roll out and roll on big-budget productions without suffering tarnish to them. It has avoided big whales to an unusual degree, proof of the deep pools of talent in that company. Relative to Netflix, I would not consider Disney Plus a frontal competitor and see these two services as highly complementary.”
The decision for Iger to stay on as chairman is a good one, says Enders, as it means the company will still have two leaders. “It’s a good thing for shareholders certainly to give Chapek the space to step into his shoes as CEO while the company gets a proper separation. Continuity for one year is a very great value,” she adds.
Finally, what does Enders think is next for Disney as Chepak begins his reign? “Don’t over personalise the industry that Disney is part of,” she says. “The company has a trio of assets derived from its IP to exploit, a brand new story to tell shareholders in Disney Plus, and its acquisitions have stuffed the company with loads of talent.”