On February 25th, Bob Chapek earned the promotion of a lifetime. He became only the third Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company since 1984.
At the time, Robert Iger became Executive Chairman at Disney, as he prepped for retirement. People immediately speculated about the reason why he quit suddenly. Since then, Iger has repeatedly denied that he had ulterior motives.
Even so, sites like Fool wondered whether Coronavirus factored into his decision. The author of that piece stated, “I wouldn't want to manage a sprawling multinational corporation during a global public health crisis, either.”
Iger returns to power
Iger apparently disagrees, as he’s back in charge. Late on Easter Sunday, the New York Times broke the shocking story. According to the author, Ben Smith, Iger "has effectively returned to running the company." Apparently, this move isn’t a sudden one, either.
The report indicates that Iger has “smoothly reasserted control," noting that he does a lot of important company work via video chat, just like the rest of us right now. With Disney losing as much as $30 million a day, Iger couldn't sit idly by and watch his legacy disintegrate.
The New York Times article traces the timeline back to mid-March when Disney held an annual shareholder summit. Soon afterward, executives decided to close the company's American theme parks temporarily. As you know, they remain shut down to this day.
Iger has taken the reins in determining the short-and long-term future for Disney in a post-Coronavirus society. Circumstances have already forced Disney to furlough 43,000 employees in Orlando and thousands more at Disneyland, where ten different unions have negotiated terms.
What about Chapek?
With so much turbulence, Iger decided that he’d asked too much of Chapek, reducing the former head of Disney Parks Experiences and Products to a secondary figure right now. The question becomes whether Chapek will have any power and influence after Iger once again steps down. The article adds this concerning update about Chapek’s tenuous status:
“One person close to the company said Mr. Iger assured Mr. Chapek that the extraordinary circumstances would be taken into consideration in the board’s evaluation of Mr. Chapek’s performance. But in reality, two hard, unpredictable years will determine if he can hold the job.”
So, after Disney jumped through hoops to make the transition of power seamless, the company’s back where it started in February. Iger’s calling the shots, while nobody’s quite sure what to make of Chapek.
Of course, I think we all agree that we feel better about Iger running Disney than someone who has been on the job for just six weeks.