How long will Bob Chapek be Disney's CEO?

Edited: November 6, 2020, 5:58 AM

This strikes me as a VERY interesting question. Please consider the following:

Michael Eisner became the CEO of Disney in 1984 when he was 42 years-old. He remained at the helm of Disney until 2005 (21 Years) stepping down at age 63.

Robert Iger became the CEO of Disney in 2005 when he was 54 years-old. He remained the Disney chief until 2020 (15 Years) stepping down at 69.

Bob Chapek became the CEO of Disney in 2020. He is 60 years old.

In a world where the future of entertainment (theme parks and movie theaters) remains VERY uncertain and considering how late in his life Mr. Chapek took control, how long will he remain running the show?

Unlike Mr. Eisner and Mr. Iger, Mr. Chapek's roots were more in business and less in creativity and content production. While Mr. Eisner's success drew from exploiting the company's untapped potential and Mr. Iger's success drew from his tech savy and shrewd mergers and acquisition decisions, Mr. Chapek's skillsets seem to be rooted only in business -- and ONLY in the Disney business.

In my opinion, Mr. Chapek's role has been (and will likely remain) focused on the company's short-term survival -- making painful decisions to right the ship and balance the check book. Under such circumstances, opportunities (or for that matter resources) for capital investments and massive creative endeavors seem extremely limited.

Additionally, Chapek's power to consider substantial new opportunities is pretty limited. After all, Mr. Iger remains a force in the company -- sitting as the company's number one stock holder with at total of 1,150,138 shares. Number two is Christine M. McCarthy with about 141,301 shares.

In my opinion, Disney will be looking for a new CEO relatively quickly. A young person with great vision who has executive gravitas and a powerful creative mind.

From where I sit (and for whatever my opinion is worth) I think Mr. Chapek's tenure will be over by 2025.

As for his likely replacement? I'm leaning toward Lachlan Murdoch.


Replies (25)

Edited: November 6, 2020, 10:54 AM

I think Chapek was always meant to be a placeholder to afford the company time to find the "right" person for the job amidst a rapidly evolving landscape (even pre-COVID). The writing was definitely on the wall when Iger came back into the fold when the pandemic struck and Chapek has been more or less persona non grata for the past 6+ months. As far as I'm concerned Chapek is CEO in title ONLY, and Iger is the one who's still running the show until this crisis subsides or Disney identifies who they really want to lead the company into the future.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney tap someone from the broadcasting side of the house since that is where the real needs of the business lie (someone like ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro or ABC president Karey Burke), but I also wouldn't be surprised if the company goes outside of its comfort zone to hire a woman or minority even if that person has less experience/clout, getting ahead of the trend among major businesses.

Edited: November 6, 2020, 12:18 PM

This is hilarious. When I read this thread title I immediately thought that TH would be the first to answer. It made me laugh to see that TH was the one to ask the question lol.

I agree with Russell. I think Iger's plan was to always leave around this time, but they couldn't find a suitable replacement in time so they went with Chapek. Esp after everything that's happened with Covid, I wouldn't be surprised if he's asked to leave. I've heard that Iger and Chapek have been butting heads over where the company should go during Covid. Personally, he's been cutting costs left and right in his position as the head of the parks, long before Covid happened, so I have a distain for him. Have a creative head, like Josh D'maro as the head of the parks but have a businessman be the head of disney. Yes Chapek is a businessman, but does anyone see him as the head of the disney company? Iger was always front and center of the Disney company and always had a calm and confident personality. Correct me if I'm wrong but, Chapek hasn't been doing alot of talking and being in tune with the "fans" and employees of the company. Tbh, I still see Iger has the head.

November 6, 2020, 2:12 PM

It's my understanding that Mr. Iger had planned to leave as early as 2018 with a notion of running for President in 2020 -- an idea he actually alludes to in his autobiography. He stayed on because.of the Fox Merger.

The question I pose is not just who might replace Mr. Chapek, but rather "when" will it happen?

Again, my money is on early 2025 -- with Mr. Murdoch having the inside track to be his successor.

November 6, 2020, 2:30 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if Chapek is replaced by the end of 2021. He's not really the CEO right now anyway, so replacing him would be easy, especially if Iger gives them his blessing.

Edited: November 6, 2020, 3:11 PM

Man, I don't think Iger would have been anywhere close to being nominated to be a party's candidate unless he was an independent, but if he was then why would he even try to run because he wouldn't have had enough votes to win.

I think once this whole covid stuff is beginning to be over he'll be let go and he will get to be blamed for all the financial stuff. The the company can hire the person that they have (hopefully) been looking at during this time.

November 6, 2020, 4:23 PM

Poscott: "Man, I don't think Iger would have been anywhere close to being nominated to be a party's candidate ..."

Oprah responds: "If Bob Iger had decided to run for president, I would be canvassing in Iowa right now. I would be going door to door."

Me: Iger will likely run in 2024.

November 6, 2020, 5:19 PM

@AndrewL: There's already been chatter that Biden only intends to serve one term.

Edited: November 6, 2020, 9:27 PM

Regardless, I suspect Mr. Chapek will be gone by 2025.

Edited: November 6, 2020, 10:22 PM

I'm surprised Chapek has stuck around thus far. When the COVID stuff really started taking off, Iger bailed immediately rather than finish in 2021 as originally planned (if he really wanted a shot at the Presidency, he wouldn't have waited until late February to enter the race). At the time, Chapek was left to be the scapegoat to answer why certain sectors would soon be underperforming and would have to be the one to break the news of the imminent layoffs, starting with the CPs in March. It probably doesn't help that Iger then returned as head to run the company in April to be Disney's "savior". I suspect naming Chapek to the board of directors was to keep him from ditching as well, so as to not create executive panic and spur a mass exodus of shareholders.

November 12, 2020, 9:58 AM

Iger has made it very clear that his wife (who is a famous journalist) won't allow him to go into politics, I think the situation is moot at this point. Kamala Harris is going to run as the Democrat in 2024. Also Iger has not left Disney he is still working a lot he is just no longer running the company, he has put himself into more of a support role. I have seen Iger at WDW working several times since he stepped down from CEO.

And the difference between CEO and Owner is that publicly traded companies, like Disney (DIS on the New York Stock Exchange), are owned by the shareholders and are ran by the C-suite executives (CEO, CO, CFO etc) with the CEO being the top job. The board of directors, who are technically selected by the shareholders, have to approve on major decisions as well as decide on the CEO's compensation. With companies that trade on the stock exchange one person or family doesn't own the company (although there are technicalities that some families play, like Ford for example, where they have different share classes and the Ford family maintains the top share class so they can still have control while also being able to raise money from the stock market. The ethics of that are debatable but that's what shareholders sign up for when they buy the stock). That is pretty rare however.

November 12, 2020, 6:52 PM

the_man; "Iger has made it very clear that his wife (who is a famous journalist) won't allow him to go into politics ..."

Me: Prove that or shut up.

November 15, 2020, 6:23 PM

@the_man: Yeah ... I didn't think so.

November 16, 2020, 2:40 PM

If Biden doesn't run I could easily see Iger stepping up.

November 16, 2020, 8:17 PM

Yeah, but who would vote for Iger? He's unpopular with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who agree with Bernie Sanders' attacks that the workers at Disney's parks aren't getting a livable wage while Bob earns $65 million dollars a year. And Republicans definitely won't vote for him because A: they'll hold out for another Trump run and B: they view Disney as liberal propaganda and refuse to support it. All that leaves Iger to do is hope to become a new-age Ross Perot, and I don't think he has nearly the same spunky appeal that Perot had.

And FWIW, my personal opinions on Iger don't reflect the ones I mentioned above. Just reading the room here.

November 18, 2020, 11:25 AM

The information is everywhere, including interviews on youtube, his book, articles, etc. Here is one I found just by googling it.

And everybody already knows Kamala Harris is going to be the 2024 democratic candidate, if you ask Iger himself he would probably even say that.

November 19, 2020, 9:31 AM

@ the_man: "The information is everywhere"? And then the only link you can scrape up that says he won't run because his wife opposes the idea is from 2016?

I mean, seriously?

How about this from Yahoo Finance 2019 (Specifically pulled from Iger's book that you reference): "In August 2017, two weeks after Disney announced its purchase of the BAM Tech majority stake, Rupert Murdoch invited Iger to his winery in Bel Air, Calif. Iger assumed Murdoch wanted to find out whether Iger planned to run for president in 2020, a rumor that had been circulating, and Iger was right: Murdoch asked him immediately. “I had no desire to be candid with Rupert about my thinking, figuring it would end up on Fox News,” Iger writes. In fact, Iger had indeed been considering a run for president, “even though I knew it was a terrific longshot,” he writes. He had done extensive homework to school himself on political history and policy. He even reread the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “I was also trying not to be presumptuous,” he writes. “The simple fact that I ran a large multinational company did not necessarily qualify me to be President of the United States.” Iger also adds, quite candidly, in a moment that possible 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg might want to take note of, “I was skeptical of the Democratic Party’s willingness and ability to support a successful business person.” What happened after the politics question with Murdoch ended Iger’s presidential run consideration anyway: Iger felt Murdoch suggested he was willing to sell 21st Century Fox. The next day he called Murdoch and they discussed it more overtly; Murdoch said he would only sell if Iger extended his tenure as CEO; Iger at the time was slated to step down in June 2019. Iger writes: “I suddenly had the feeling that my life was about to change, and a run for the presidency wasn’t going to be the catalyst.”

So no, there is nothing current indicating Willow (his wife) is opposed to his running.

Also from the_man: "And everybody already knows Kamala Harris is going to be the 2024 democratic candidate ..."

Me: I'm sorry but at this point in American politics you're gonna offer up a prediction regarding who the Dems will nominate four years from now? To quote the most successful politician of 2020 "Come on, man!" Predicting presidential politics four years out is a fool's game.

the_man: "... if you ask Iger himself he would probably even say that."

Me: I'm not so sure about that. But I am quite sure that he wouldn't say, "I won't run because my wife doesn't want me to."


November 19, 2020, 10:24 AM

I'll bet you $1000 Kamala Harris is going to be the presidential candidate in 2024. We can refer back to this post then.

November 19, 2020, 11:04 AM

@ the_man, so you're walking away from the "his wife won't allow it" thing?



November 24, 2020, 12:18 PM

I agree Chapek is a bridge to someone else however, the documented 68 billion in debt that Disney is carries won't be enough to save him long term. I think you are more right than you know. What's the over and under 2023?

Here is who I think might be on the list:
CEO: Craig Hunegs Why: He founded Warners digital networks and has a track record of creative influence on NBCs and ABC most sucessful slates and franchises. He also has crossed well in to streaming with Hulu's most watched program. He is the creative choice. Peter Rice at ABC seemed to place a number of people under Hunegs direction. With all the focus on content and successful programming, he would be and ideal choice to lead a Disney+ centric environment going forward. Touchstone, NBC, WB, ABC, Hulu, TBS, USA, all part of his resume. While at WB, he led aquisitions to pull online gaming platforms into mobile device services. IMO, he's traversed more territory than anyone else they can find.

CEO: Greg Peters Current COO and Chief Product Officer @ Netflix Why? Disney has been leaning on Qwilt to drive performance and innovation in the formerly aquired MLB/BAMTECH streaming platform. I have to say, I am constantly dealing with Disney + issues while my Prime and Netflix experiences are trouble free. Peters arena was coding and development in the open source industry along with a background in consumer digital products. He has guided Netflix in his prior roles to the best streaming experience. Another plus in his catagory is he is surrunded by top technology people and could help resolve many of the technology problems with current ride systems and know how to find technology talent to inovate existing experiences. He has a background in physics and would have a good relationship with the nerd farm and gearheads at imagineering.

Other potential names:

Peter Rice: Craig Hunegs reports to Rice however, I think Rice is a Dark Horse because he is entrenched with Disney's content and developing a new vision for 21st Century Studios. While the resume is their, there really is no one that could step into his role IMO with the exception of Dana Walden or Hunegs.

November 24, 2020, 12:22 PM

Anybody remeber when Jeffrey Katzenberg was lauded to be the guy??? He fell hard with his streaming service.

Edited: November 30, 2020, 2:24 PM

Least writes: "Anybody remeber when Jeffrey Katzenberg was lauded to be the guy?"

Me: Like back in 1994?

Edited: December 2, 2020, 1:57 PM

Guess Iger caved in. I mean, if you can’t beat your own party, then join em huh?

And I guess he still wants to tell Chapek what to do for another year haha

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