The entertainment industry was stunned on Sunday when it was announced that Bob Iger had returned as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, replacing his successor, Bob Chapek. The move was a surprising one, considering that Iger had previously retired in 2020, but according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Disney's board had been hoping to fire Chapek for quite some time with discussion about the matter going back as far as a director's meeting in late June.
Per the report, the board wanted to appoint someone among their own ranks, specifically Nike chairman Mark Parker, to serve as an interim CEO while they searched for someone to permanently take on the wrong. Parker reportedly declined the role, but General Motors exec Mary Barra was also reportedly on board with replacing Chapek as early as June. The report also noted that despite Board Chairman Susan Arnold releasing a statement of board confidence and support for Chapek, at that time his contract had not been renewed, which was itself a bit telling and when it was extended for three years, it was also backdated.
The report also indicated that when time came to actually axe Chapek, it was a process that a source described as "Insane".
"He didn't get to say goodbye or say, 'I've decided to step down," the source is quoted as saying. "I bet you it broke Chapek's firing of [Peter] Rice in seven minutes. They called [Chapek] and said, 'You're out. Our lawyers will call your lawyers.' No statement from him, no comment from him, no grace. It's f-cking insane."
Bob Iger returns to Disney, replacing Bob Chapek
"We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic," Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, said in a statement distributed by the company late Sunday night. "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," she said.
Iger later sent a company-wide email to employees of Disney regarding his return. You can read the whole email here.
"It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer," Iger wrote in his memo to Disney Cast Members.
He then applauded the company's work throughout the pandemic, lauding them for keeping the company afloat.
"I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty—our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible," the executive added.
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