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Bob Iger returns as Disney CEO effective immediately

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Bob Iger is back.

Disney, in a shocking late Sunday announcement, said it had re-appointed Iger as chief executive, effective immediately, after Iger’s handpicked successor as CEO, Bob Chapek, got here under fire for his management of the entertainment giant.

“It’s with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I need to admit, a little bit of amazement — that I write to you this evening with the news that I’m returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer,” Iger wrote to employees in an email, which was obtained by CNBC.

Shares of Disney, a Dow component, were up about 8% in premarket trade Monday.

The dramatic upheaval comes 11 months after Iger left Disney, and days after Chapek said he planned to chop costs at the corporate, which had been burdened by swelling costs at its streaming service, Disney+. Earlier this month, the corporate’s earnings vastly underperformed Wall Street’s expectations. Even its theme park business, which reported a surge in revenue, delivered lower than what analysts had projected.

Iger’s return also comes as legacy media firms contend with a rapidly shifting landscape, as ad dollars dry up and consumers increasingly cut off their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming.

Iger will help the corporate’s board develop a recent successor, Disney said in a release.

Chapek was named chief executive in February 2020, succeeding Iger, who had previously said he would not return to the role.

Shares of Disney have fallen about 41% thus far this 12 months, as of Friday’s close. The stock hit a 52-week low Nov. 9.

Iger has signed on to work as CEO for 2 years, Disney said Sunday, “with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to guide the Company on the completion of his term.”

The corporate said Chapek stepped down. Soon after Chapek took over in 2020, Covid-19 became a pandemic and compelled the shutdown of Disney’s theme parks and prevented it, for a time, from releasing movies in theaters. Nevertheless, the corporate’s stock soared in 2021, before crashing all the way down to earth in recent months.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long profession, including navigating the corporate through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Disney’s board chair. She’s going to remain in that role.

Chapek, whose contract as CEO was prolonged earlier this 12 months, planned a hiring freeze, cost cuts and layoffs across the corporate, in line with a memo CNBC obtained earlier this month. The inner memo got here three days after the corporate’s poor quarterly earnings report.

Iger, who held the CEO role for 15 years at Disney, had favored Chapek as his successor. The 2 ultimately had a falling out, and their conflict solid a shadow over the corporate’s future. Chapek distanced himself from Iger with a series of selections, including his recent approach to streaming prices for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.

Iger is a widely respected and liked figure at Disney. He oversaw its deals to amass Pixar, Lucasfilm and its “Star Wars” properties, and Marvel – all of which have change into multi-billion-dollar mental property behemoths.

Chapek, meanwhile, angered employees together with his initial silence in regards to the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, where the corporate’s Walt Disney World resort is situated. He then received blowback from Republican politicians, reminiscent of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for opposing it. Earlier this month, CNBC reported that Chapek had been in contact with Republican leaders in preparation for the GOP taking up the House.

Chapek also was criticized for his handling of the controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s pay for her work within the Marvel movie “Black Widow.”

Read Iger’s email to Disney employees here:

Dear Fellow Employees and Forged Members,

It’s with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I need to admit, a little bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I’m returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer.

After I take a look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the outstanding reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I’m in awe of your accomplishments and I’m excited to embark with you on many recent endeavors.

I do know this company has asked a lot of you through the past three years, and these times definitely remain quite difficult, but as you have got heard me say before, I’m an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it’s that even within the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially within the face of uncertainty—our employees and Forged Members achieve the unimaginable.

You will likely be hearing more from me and your leaders tomorrow and within the weeks ahead. Within the meantime, allow me to specific my deep gratitude for all that you simply do. Disney holds a special place within the hearts of individuals across the globe due to you, and your dedication to this company and its mission to bring joy to people through great storytelling is an inspiration to me each day. 

Bob Iger

Read Disney’s full announcement here:

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) announced today that Robert A. Iger is returning to guide Disney as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Mr. Iger, who spent greater than 4 many years on the Company, including 15 years as its CEO, has agreed to function Disney’s CEO for 2 years, with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to guide the Company on the completion of his term. Mr. Iger succeeds Bob Chapek, who has stepped down from his position. 

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long profession, including navigating the corporate through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board. “The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to guide 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’s greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide–all of which can allow for a seamless transition of leadership,” she said.

The position of Chairman of the Board stays unchanged, with Ms. Arnold serving in that capability.

“I’m extremely optimistic for the longer term of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Mr. Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place within the hearts of so many individuals across the globe—most especially within the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I’m deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a transparent mission focused on creative excellence to encourage generations through unrivaled, daring storytelling.

“During his 15 years as CEO, from 2005 to 2020, Mr. Iger helped construct Disney into considered one of the world’s most successful and admired media and entertainment firms with a strategic vision focused on creative excellence, technological innovation and international growth. He expanded on Disney’s legacy of unparalleled storytelling with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and twenty first Century Fox and increased the Company’s market capitalization fivefold during his time as CEO. Mr. Iger continued to direct Disney’s creative endeavors until his departure as Executive Chairman last December, and the Company’s robust pipeline of content is a testament to his leadership and vision.”

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