Effective November 20, 2022, Bob Chapek has stepped down as Disney CEO, with Bob Iger returning to the position.

From 2005 to 2020, Bob Iger shaped Disney into one of the most successful entertainment and media giants in the world, focusing on creativity, innovation, and international growth. Disney’s purchase of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox opened new avenues for the company’s storytelling capabilities during his CEO tenure. He also oversaw the launch of the streaming service Disney+, hosting a vast array of content from Disney’s original and acquired properties. Iger was named executive chairman until 2021, with Chapek as the new CEO.

The Rise and Fall of Bob Chapek

Bob Chapek first worked at Disney in 1993 in its home video division, bringing the studio’s home entertainment into the digital age. In 2011, he was appointed president of Disney Consumer Products, signing major merchandise deals to license acquired properties such as Star Wars and Marvel. In 2014, he also launched the Disney Imagicademy to provide high-quality learning tablet and smartphone apps for young consumers.

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In 2015, Chapek succeeded Thomas O. Staggs as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; he worked to complete and launch Shanghai Disneyland the following year, along with the completion and launch of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom the year after. Chapek invested over $24 billion into theme parks, attractions, hotels, and cruise ships, more than what Disney spent in buying Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm altogether. Because of Chapek’s long line of successes with parks and resorts and consumer products, Bob Iger viewed Chapek as the ideal candidate to be his successor.

Chapek became the new CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 2020, with Bob Iger descending to executive chairman until his retirement at the end of 2021. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chapek focused on opening Disney’s theme parks, gradually increasing capacity while following CDC guidelines (temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, etc.). As for streaming media, several films (Mulan (2020), Soul, Luca, Turning Red, etc.) originally scheduled for theatrical releases debuted on Disney+ instead.

When Florida passed its Parental Rights in Education Act on March 28, 2022, made effective July, various reports noted the dissonance between Disney’s progressive image and its funds to the legislators behind the bill. This law bans schools from teaching students in grades K-3 about sexual orientation or gender identity in a way that is considered age-inappropriate by state standards; it also allows parents to access the student’s education and health records and sue the school district if they feel the policy is violated in any way.

At first, Chapek refused to say anything about the company’s stance regarding the law and asserted focus on commercial content; this was met with criticism from even Disney’s own creative staff. Chapek later changed his mind and publicly apologized, announcing the decision to cease donations to Florida to better aid the LGBT community.

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Chapek’s leadership also took a nasty hit with the public feud against Scarlett Johansson over the release of Black Widow. The film was available for an extra charge via the Premier Access Window on Disney+ at the same time it hit theaters; Johansson filed a lawsuit, seeing the simultaneous release method as a breach of contract costing her tens of millions in back-end payments. Disney responded by calling out her “disregard for the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The case was settled two months later.

The Return of Bob Iger

Bob Iger

In a surprise development, Bob Iger has agreed to return as Disney CEO for 2 years, starting November 20, 2022. Iger had previously stated that he was not interested in returning to Disney, making this revelation all the more shocking. Chapek has stepped down from his position despite having his contract renewed for another 3 years. Iger reportedly received complaints about Chapek’s leadership style and financial decisions that conflicted with the family-friendly image the company stood for.

Disney’s negative earnings report of $4 billion in losses amid soaring content costs, along with the executives’ lack of confidence in Chapek, was what influenced the decision to bring back Bob Iger as CEO. Chapek was not notified of his ousting until Sunday night.

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Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, issued this statement:

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period.

Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide–all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.”

Upon reentering his post as Disney CEO, Bob Iger restructured the company’s business strategies to better emphasize creative storytelling. He dismissed DMED chief Kareem Daniel, who rose through the ranks of retailing and licensing rather than the creative division of the company. Iger intends for the new business structure to restore the creative teams’ decision-making and rationalize costs as he searches for a new successor.

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What do you think of Bob Iger’s return as Disney CEO? Who do you believe would be a worthy successor? Let us know in the comments.
Source: Business Wire.

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