Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) has announced that CEO Bob Iger will be stepping down, effective immediately. Iger has been CEO of Disney since 2005. The succession announcement came as a surprise to many. Some Disney employees and rival media executives commented that they were stunned by the news.
During Iger’s tenure, he was instrumental in boosting the business in a number of ways. Shortly into his tenure as CEO, Iger announced Disney’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios. He also ushered through the acquisitions of Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment, each for about $4 billion and spearheaded Disney’s $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business.
Iger launched Disney+ in November, and the service already has 26.5 million paying subscribers, as of the first quarter of 2020. Iger also launched a new Disney theme park in Shanghai, which saw 11 million visitors in its first year. In 2019, he unveiled Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World.
Iger announced at Disney’s investor day last year that “2021 will be the time for me to finally step down.”
He told investors that he is deciding to step down because he wants to focus on the creative side of the business. Iger said in a statement alongside the latest announcement, “With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO.”
Iger had been planning his succession for a while, and has pushed back his retirement several times in recent years. He will now assume the role of executive chairman and remain in that role through the end of 2021, according to the announcement from the company.
Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, will be assuming the role of CEO and will be appointed to the board of directors at a later date. Chapek will continue to report to Iger, who will help transition Chapek into the role while serving as executive chairman. “I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world,” Chapek said in a statement.