On February 25, 2020, Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger announced that he would be stepping down from his CEO role at The Walt Disney Company, effective immediately. Taking over as Disney CEO would be then-Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Bob Chapek, and Iger continued with the company as Executive Chairman.
Unbeknownst to everyone, those plans would take a major turn when Disney had to shut down all of its theme parks worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Bob Iger did step down in his role as CEO and Bob Chapek took over, he still held a large role as Executive Chairman and had a large say in order to help the company navigate the unprecedented times that they found themselves in. Fortunately, Disney has been able to open up most of its theme parks again, although some are only able to operate at a limited capacity and one is currently closed.
Now that things are slowly getting back to normal for The Walt Disney Company — between theme park reopenings and being able to once again release films in theaters — it would seem as though it is time for Bob Chapek to fully step into his leadership role at The Walt Disney Company, without as much guidance from Bob Iger. However, this transition of leadership over the past year seems to have caused some strain in the relationship between Iger and Chapek, according to recent insider reports.
In an article published by Variety, reporters Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly write the following:
The two men’s once-warm relationship has grown strained, according to four insiders. This comes as Chapek has overseen a 2020 reorganization that centralized the media company’s content distribution and ad sales.
At the corporate level, Iger has moved “much more into the background than he was a few months ago, even on the creative side,” insiders say. In a sign of the leadership transfer taking place, Chapek has not only joined Iger in creative meetings but actually convened some this spring with top creative teams in television under Peter Rice and Dana Walden.
According to the report, Chapek is asserting himself more as the creative leader now that Disney is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. When Chapek first took over, his main focus was how to keep the company afloat during the pandemic. Where Bob Iger was known to debate and discuss ideas and directions projects could take, Chapek is apparently more likely to delegate tasks and make the decisions.
In the past, Chapek has said that a leader has to be a person who is always thinking ahead, always trying to be creative.
“It’s about curiosity..If you have the curiosity to ask the questions, then you become fluent, at least more fluent, in it and you start the cycle, and you catalyze that quest for awareness and knowledge and then you do the next step, which is assimilation, which is where you see what’s possible and then you apply that with vision in terms of where you think you want to go. All of a sudden, curiosity turns into vision. If you don’t know what’s possible, how could you know where you want to go.”
Variety reports that even though former Disney Parks Chairman Chapek has had positive reviews from Cast Members in the past, the restructuring and reorganization of Disney’s content creation has allegedly caused confusion among employees and consternation among senior-level executives.
The reorganization was aimed at better positioning Disney for a future that would be determined by its success in streaming. The goal, at least on paper, was to have people work more harmoniously across mediums, from television to film to Disney Plus. The result has left people deeply confused about how to navigate the new order.
Hollywood dealmakers noted that the new structure at Disney is byzantine and more convoluted than necessary, adding an extra managerial layer into the process of getting projects made.
When Bob Iger leaves The Walt Disney Company in December, Disney’s Chief Creative Officer Alan Horn is expected to leave with him. That will hit the company hard as Horn as been responsible for major content success within the company. Walt Disney Studios Content Chairman Alan Bergman will take the reins after Horn leaves, but it is being reported that no one will fill Horn’s position.
While Bergman has been involved in all creative meetings at the studio, many within Disney and in the creative community at large, however, view him as having more business acumen than artistic sensibilities. He previously held a number of operations and finance roles. And people also wonder if the job, which now includes developing projects for streaming outlets, is too big for one person to handle given the increasing complexities of the business.
If the reports are true, and Horn leaves along with Bob Iger, that will leave one man and his small team to handle the interests of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm all on their own without a Chief Creative Officer to lead the way.
Despite the reports of a rift between the two Bobs, Bob Chapek has said in the past that he has always considered Bob Iger a mentor. Prior to his promotion to CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Chapek worked closely with Iger in his role as President of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Iger and Chapek were also recently spotted together at Disneyland Park when it reopened on April 30.
How do you think Bob Chapek is doing as CEO of The Walt Disney Company? Let us know in the comments!