Former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger is returning to the media company as CEO, the company's board said in a statement Sunday.
Iger, who retired from Disney at the end of last year after 15 years as chief executive, has agreed to serve as CEO for two more years. He will replace Bob Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in February 2020.
While the announcement shocked the media industry, it comes at a time of great evolution and challenges for Disney, as well as a time of financial encumbrances, CNN reports.
Disney stock is down 40% year to date, and the company just reported lackluster earnings for the fourth quarter, with the streaming business losing $1.5 billion.
Iger, who had been with Disney for nearly 50 years when he left at the end of 2021, “has an almost mythical status as the leader of Disney,” as CNN puts it. Iger acquired Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars’ Lucasfirm and most of 21st Century Fox. He launched Disney’s streaming revolution in 2019 with the launch of Disney+.
Chapek, who was promoted from chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products to chairman, can be credited with guiding Disney through the pandemic, one of its most turbulent times in its 100-year history.
However, Chapek also found himself grappling with controversial issues, such as Scarlett Johansson’s pay and battles with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over Florida’s bill restricting the teaching of LGBTQ topics in the classroom.
Disney had just renewed its contract with Chapek in July for another three years through 2025.
“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger said in a statement Sunday. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees.”
Susan Arnold, chairman of the board of Disney, also in a statement Sunday, said, “We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career. 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.”
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