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The Unexpected Return of Iger to Disney Stuns an Unhappy Kingdom

BusinessThe Unexpected Return of Iger to Disney Stuns an Unhappy Kingdom

After two years as Disney’s chief executive, Bob Chapek seemed to have finally regained his footing by the beginning of the autumn, after a transition that was characterised by multiple failures, some of which were self-inflicted.

His employment with the organisation was unanimously renewed by the board of directors until at least July of 2025. After surpassing Netflix for the first time in terms of streaming subscribers, Disney posted exceptional quarterly profits in August, including a 50 percent boost in profit. In September, Mr. Chapek gave a speech at a Disney fan gathering in which he projected a bright future for the firm, one that includes forthcoming blockbusters such as “Avatar: The Way of Water” and new attractions at theme parks. In October, Jim Cramer, anchor of CNBC, expressed his optimism towards the firm by saying on live, “I’m very, very positive.”

Then, in the month of November, Disney released its depressing quarterly results report.

startling drops in quality when streaming. Profitability in theme parks that is lower than projected. Sharp competition in cable television, notably at ESPN, which is facing significant problems. In spite of this, Mr. Chapek, on an earnings conference call with analysts and investors, offered glowing views about Disney’s ability to sell “amazing moments that last a lifetime,” spinning the numbers as positive while doing so.

The story and the call were the sparks that ignited a chain of events that resulted in the dismissal of Mr. Chapek as chief executive by the Disney board on Sunday and the unexpected restoration of his immediate predecessor, Robert A. Iger, in that role until December 2024.

It wasn’t just that some senior Disney leaders were appalled by the quarterly results and Mr. Chapek’s seemingly delusional delivery of them; several of them also began openly discussing their intentions to resign if he continued in his position, and word of this quickly spread to the board of directors at Disney. At least one board member was informed in an open and honest manner by Disney’s highly acclaimed chief financial officer, Christine M. McCarthy, that she did not have trust in Mr. Chapek. On Monday, the head of a Disney division remarked something along the lines of, “He lost the room irretrievably.”

The board of directors at Disney decided to push the panic button after investors began fleeing the company in droves, and Jim Cramer of CNBC began openly calling for Mr. Chapek to be fired.

On Friday at three o’clock in the afternoon, Susan Arnold, who serves as chair of the board, gave Mr. Iger, who is 71 years old, a call and urged him to come back.

Mr. Iger emphasised on several occasions, both in public settings over the course of the previous year and in private meetings with close associates as late as this month, that he had absolutely no plans to go back to work for Disney. According to a number of persons who had conversations with him, at the same time, he had been publicly screaming against Mr. Chapek.

He bemoaned what he claimed to be Mr. Chapek’s apparent lack of empathy and emotional intelligence, which he said resulted in an inability to interact with or relate to the creative community in Hollywood. He remarked in one of his associates that it seemed as if Disney was losing its essence.

The arrival of Mr. Iger was met with jubilation on Wall Street. The worth of Disney rose by $12 billion overnight as a result of a 10 percent increase in the company’s share price on Monday morning. Even though they were taken aback by the unexpected turn of events, the executives at Disney were overjoyed to meet him. The title “Bob Iger Returns as Hero in Waiting to Save a Battered Disney” appeared in an issue of The Hollywood Reporter, a journal that covers business news.

In the year 2020, Mr. Chapek reorganised Disney to place a greater emphasis on the company’s streaming services, which included Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. Kareem Daniel, his protégé, was named chairman of a new division called Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution. He removed the responsibility of profit and loss from the executives who run Disney’s movie and television studios and gave it to Daniel. The new division is called Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

Longtime executives at Disney, such as Alan Bergman, the chairman of Disney Studios Content, were dismayed when they learned that they would no longer have control over when and how movies and television episodes would be made available to the public. The fact that Mr. Daniel had no expertise in the large region that he was given the responsibility to govern made the issue much more delicate. Mr. Chapek asserted on several occasions that his profoundly unpopular restructuring was, in reality, the antithesis of what it seemed to be, with “100 percent buy-in” from Disney management.

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