Disney in Trouble as CEO Bob Iger Rehires Former Chief Execs

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Bob Iger (L) and Bob Chapek (R) at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Credit: Disney

As The Walt Disney Company faces one of its more turbulent periods in history, in its 100th year no less, Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger is bringing back former employees, including a past chief officer.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger looking at Disney Brand Image with Castle and Logo
Credit: Inside the Magic

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Across all aspects of the Disney empire, the House of Mouse is struggling. From reported low attendance at the theme parks to box office misfires and streaming woes, Disney’s centennial year is anything but celebratory.

Upon CEO Bob Iger’s return last November, many Disney fans praised the company for its removal of the oft-criticized Bob Chapek.

Iger surprised most when he named Chapek, the former Chairperson of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (the role that the beloved Josh D’Amaro now holds), as his successor. While many bemoaned CEO Bob Chapek’s reign, he led the business through the pandemic and post-pandemic years, a time which saw positive growth for Disney Parks, in particular, from a financial standpoint. Audience and Guest satisfaction, however, was a sticking point to his rule.

Josh D'Amaro with a statue of Walt Disney at Disney World
Credit: Josh D’Amaro Instagram

It was under the Chapek leadership that new operations like the Park Pass system and costly Disney Genie+ were introduced. In other areas of business, like Disney+, the Chapek era failed to deliver a profit on the streaming service. Recent estimates from the former Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy put the streamer making a profit at the end of fiscal 2024.

Streaming is a big factor for Iger, who has been vocal about the company’s lackluster strategy when it comes to the product and who famously enacted the content purge of 2023, which saw recent projects like Lucasfilm’s Willow and Disney Originals Better Nate Than Never (2022) and Crater (2023) pulled from Disney+. The latter was only on the service was 48 days.

In terms of other parts of the TV business, there has never been a time of more uncertainty. Disney+ will eventually combine with Hulu; legacy TV channels like ABC may be sold, and ESPN is facing a costly streaming future. And Iger seemingly knows it.

Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu logos
Credit: Disney

Disney’s Chief Operating Officer returns, as does fellow senior executive.

The Disney CEO, per the Financial Times, is bringing back former Disney executives. First is Tom Staggs. Staggs held a number of roles in his almost 27 years at The Walt Disney Company, including Chief Financial Officer, then Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide (now Disney Parks, Experiences and Products), and finally, Chief Operating Officer. In his role as theme park head, Staggs doubled operating profits to over $2.5 billion. He stepped down as COO in 2016.

Kevin Mayer led the streaming launches of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. The former Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International (now Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution) Chairman was seen as the likely successor to Iger back in 2019, but the CEO chose Chapek instead.

Bob Chapek with Mickey and Minnie
Credit: Disney

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After departing Disney, Staggs and Mayer launched Candle Media in 2021. The Blackstone-backed company’s subsidiaries include Moonbug Entertainment and Hello Sunshine.

Now both are back at the Mouse. According to FT, the pair have been brought back to advise Iger on Disney’s legacy TV business, including ESPN.

The cable sports channel is 80% owned by Disney. After having been a partially over-the-top service, Iger plans to capitalize on the huge sports audience and take it to a fully streaming experience. This, of course, is a big risk considering the streaming climate. In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, Iger said he is open to strategic partners on the venture to help its transition to a full direct-to-consumer service. From Apple to NBC to the sports leagues themselves, reports are circulating on who could help Disney move forward with the expansion.

Bob Iger posing in front of several screens displaying various Disney owned properties
Credit: Disney

Sports is big in streaming, as it was recently seen this year when 4 million subscribers left Disney+. A large proportion of this loss was attributed to subscribers leaving the service in India after the Indian Premier League cricket tournament was pulled from Disney+ Hotstar.

It is not clear if this strategic consultancy Staggs and Mayer are providing indicates who the potential Iger successor could be, but the duo has obviously been close to the Mouse before, so who’s to tell? At present, names of who will be Iger’s successor include Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, and Josh D’Amaro.

What do you think of Staggs and Mayer’s return? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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