Disney’s chief executive has stepped down with immediate effect and been replaced by the head of its theme parks division, as the entertainment giant pivots towards streaming.
The world’s largest media company late last night made the unexpected announcement that chief executive officer (CEO) Bob Iger has resigned after 15 years at the helm. Bob Chapek, who has chaired the firm’s Disney Parks, Experiences and Products division since its creation in 2018, has been named as his successor, bringing an end to a closely-watched corporate succession battle.
Shares in Disney, which ended the day down 3.6 per cent, fell a further 2.2 per cent after markets closed.
Iger has been widely credited with the entertainment giant’s success over recent years. During his 15 year tenure at the top, he secured a slew of acquisitions for the company, including the $7.4bn (£5.7bn) takeover of Pixar from Apple in 2006, along with global franchises Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.
Iger had previously vouched to stay on at the world’s largest media company to oversee its shift towards digital, after the launch of its Disney Plus streaming service at the end of last year.
However, in a statement last night, Iger said: “With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of 21st Century Fox well under way, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO.”
“I have the utmost confidence in Bob [Chapek] and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months.”
Earlier this month, Iger said Disney Plus remained the “number one priority” for the company, having successfully wooed 28m subscribers since its November launch. The division is currently headed up by direct-to-consumer executive Kevin Mayer, who was tipped to be in line to replace Iger after he announced he announced retirement plans in 2018, only to pedal back on them months later.
Iger will remain as Disney’s executive chairman to direct its “creative endeavours” until his contract expires at the end of 2021.
The move is seen as a significant shakeup at the one of the biggest brands in the world, with Iger perceived by many as the most powerful man in Hollywood.
Of the 20 most lucrative films over the past decade, 13 were made by Disney, including Avengers: Endgame, which last year overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time.
Chapek, who becomes Disney’s seventh CEO in its nearly 100-year history, has worked at the firm for almost three decades. Under his leadership, the firm opened its $5.5bn Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016 and doubled its Disney Cruise fleet.
“Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team,” Chapek said in a statement last night.
“Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”