The Walt Disney Company is right where it’s supposed to be: in the hands of Bob Chapek.
It seems that while the media was rocked by the seemingly-sudden decision to replace Bob Iger with Bob Chapek as Disney’s Chief Executive Officer–including us here at ITM–the move was a cold, calculated maneuver by Disney’s Executive Chairman, Bob Iger.
According to an article on Yahoo.com,
It appears evident in hindsight that Iger saw the dire financial impact of the coronavirus sooner than other American chief executives and took decisive action. The most important task of Disney’s CEO for the next two years will be rescuing Disney, not growing it. Iger made a point to end his 15-year reign on a high note. Chapek was put in charge as the Magic Kingdom’s wartime leader.
This play makes total sense. If we look at these last three CEOs of the Walt Disney Company, we will see three chapters of the Disney story. Michael Eisner was brought in by Roy E. Disney to keep the company together. While many do not like the decision he made, Eisner became a champion of Disney driving it from the brink of a hostile take over to being one of America’s biggest corporate conglomerates. Eisner was also in charge during the Disney Renaissance. He was a fighter, a builder.
Then came a time of peace and prosperity. That’s where Bob Iger came in. He was perfect. The media man had the luxury to look around and see what people liked and wanted. He had the time to chart Disney’s course into China. First to Hong Kong, then to Shanghai. He made some of the most significant acquisitions in recent history, buying Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox. The 2010s were a Disney Bacchanal that ended with seven billion-dollar movies at the box office, and the launch of Disney+.
But the days of wine and roses have come and gone. Iger already put Disney+ and other direct-to-consumer efforts at the heart of Disney’s future, but the two major cornerstones of Disney–its dominance in the theme park and film industries–are taking a major hit. It needs an old-school “Eisner-type” that understands the parks, products, and experiences like the back of his hand. It needs Bob Chapek at the helm.
Chapek has been a champion of Disney parks and experiences breaking every new frontier from the technological to the political. The former head of Disney’s Parks, Experiences, & Products division oversaw the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort, the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the planned expansion into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The last D23 Expo promised a whole new era in Disney parks and experiences from the EPCOT revamp and the mega-expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris, to the expansion of Adventures by Disney and the addition of a second private island destination in the Bahamas.
Bob Iger believes whole-heartedly that Disney’s future rests in the direct-to-consumer market, and he’s made it clear that he will handle it from now on. Meanwhile, Chapek will be Disney’s General on the front lines defending the castle day in and day out, not to mention Disney’s fleet of cruise ships, fighting to still make all of Disney’s dreams a reality.
According to yahoo.com, “roughly 34% of Disney’s revenue (and 28% of its operating income) comes from its parks, cruises and resorts…The largest division of Disney by revenue (41%) and operating income (42%) is its TV networks.” Disney’s Studio Entertainment division also represents 16% of revenue and 19% of operating income (not to mention 1/3 of the entire box office market).
Disney’s long-standing CEOs have had an everlasting legacy. Bob Chapek’s legacy will be defined by how he navigates this crisis, and the years it will most likely take to rebuild. His decisions will most likely be cold and calculated. But I am confident that with his leadership, the Walt Disney Company will emerge stronger than ever.
In the meantime, keep your faith, trust, and pixie dust, Disniacs. We’re going to be okay.