So... do we like Bob Chapek?

Edited: February 13, 2021, 12:24 PM

Cards on the table: Chapek fried my cheese when his first public statement about COVID-19 was to describe it as a "bump in the road."


But, beyond that rookie mistake, any evaluation of his first year must acknowledged that he's been dealt a lousy hand.

A lot of people will hammer him for making bad decisions. But it strikes me that in many situations the only choices available to him could be described as bad decisions.

So... do we like Bob Chapek?

Replies (15)

Edited: February 13, 2021, 3:02 PM

I think it's going to take more time to accurately assess his performance.

Plus he's following a top performer. I'm not a big fan of Bob Iger, but he did a pretty darn good job at Disney over the past several years, so Chapek can do a good job, but it may pale in comparison to Iger's performance.

February 13, 2021, 5:48 PM

A year from now, if he brings the company back into the black, I would say Chapek is as accomplished as both Iger and Eisner.

February 13, 2021, 8:45 PM

Wow, can't believe it's almost been an entire year since he was promoted.

Totally forgot about it so... I guess he hasn't completely screwed up.

February 13, 2021, 8:58 PM

I'd say hard to judge given how real life threw a massive wrench into Disney's 2020 plans. You can't blame him for any bad business or lost profits and not like he was the only person taking Covid too lightly back in March. I'd say need more time to see for sure.

February 14, 2021, 8:58 AM

Chapek's legacy will be largely defined by what he does in the second half of his tenure once COVID is in the rearview window. Michael Eisner started out as a promising and encouraging leader for the company in the 80's. But once Frank Wells died, Eisner lost his creative partner and began chasing dollars instead of dreams, leading to budget cuts around the parks worldwide and cheap direct-to-video films that were made simply to cash in on nostalgia (not unlike the recent live-action remake craze we've gotten from the Mouse House).

So far, Chapek is taking the right steps towards keeping Disney afloat through short-term strategies. Focusing on Disney+ content still makes sense with theaters closed and parks either closed or subject to capacity limits. However, 10 years from now, if we still see timidity in the parks and lazy theatrical(?) outputs that focus solely on making money at the expense of creativity, history will not be kind to Mr. Chapek.

February 14, 2021, 3:26 PM

What stands out for me, as it relates to these first few comments, is there are no criticism regarding the timing of Mr. Iger's decision to transition out and the company's decision to put Mr. Chapek at the helm.

Edited: February 15, 2021, 3:14 PM

The real question is whether Chapek is CEO in title only, and despite the reasonable success the company has achieved in the midst of a world-wide calamity, is it really the leadership and guidance of Chapek that has led to the company's results?

February 16, 2021, 8:25 AM

As said at the commencement of the thread, when the COVID beast first arrived, I was put off by Mr. Chapek's claim it was a "bump in thw road". And while I believe he's managing the situation as well as can be expected, I winced, and was reminded of the "bump" comment when he said this during the recent earnings call with the media: “Will there be some overlap until we know that we have hit herd immunity? Sure there will. But do we also believe that we will be in the same state of six-foot social distancing and mask wearing in ’22? Absolutely not.”

Um ... "Absolutely not?"

To quote an eminent space pirate "Great kid! Don't get cocky!"

February 16, 2021, 8:54 AM

I think it's a pretty safe comment, THC.

If a COVID-19 variant becomes more lethal/more contagious, nobody except for a fairly small contingent on TPI will remember Mr. Chapek's premature expression of optimism.

And considering the collective insanity/denial of reality of a considerable portion of the population and their vocal comdemnation of social distancing and mask wearing, I can't see the public wearing masks and doing much social distancing even for the second half of 2021.

February 16, 2021, 4:21 PM

For me, Chapek gets a free pass until restrictions are lifted enough that they don't impact Disney worse than other industries. In my mind, that doesn't mean that everything is back to normal, but it means movie theaters and theme parks can reopen, travel restrictions are lifted (at least for domestic travel), and Disney is allowed to set whatever criteria they choose rather than abiding by governmental controls. At that point, if Disney can recover at a comparable rate to others in the same industries, I'd consider Chapek's job to be satisfactory. If they cannot and still lag in recovery a year or so out, it's probably time for him to go. My gut feeling is that on a level playing field he probably wouldn't perform as well as Iger or Eisner did and I do suspect there were some ulterior motives in the timing of his promotion, but he's been given a unique opportunity and could be seen as a hero if he manages to revive and grow a seemingly dying brand.

February 16, 2021, 5:51 PM

AJ: "My gut feeling is that on a level playing field he probably wouldn't perform as well as Iger or Eisner did ..."

Me: Neither Eisner nor Iger faced the daunting challenges Chapek is dealing with.

March 4, 2021, 5:22 PM

The Wrap (03/03/21): "Bob Chapek just finished his first year as CEO of entertainment giant Walt Disney Co. — and is getting mostly high marks for leading L.A.’s biggest public company through a global pandemic without, as one analyst put it, “steering it off a cliff.”

Edited: April 6, 2021, 10:38 AM

I disliked Chapek before the pandemic mainly because of willingness to meet quarterly numbers at the expense of actually fixing things. Particularly the upcharge bus system - so instead of fixing the bus system that is plagued with service gaps he decides to create an upcharge bus system that has better service (the upcharge bus system went because they added the Minnie Vans). And the "cabana's" (aka tents) that were put in Tomorrowland that looked awful, but hey if there's a possibility it could make money may as well do it. Chapek was full of ideas to meet short-term revenue targets and is pretty well known inside the company as his phrase being "I always make my numbers"...honestly probably a big reason he was promoted to CEO.

But I very much approve of his comments lately about how restricting capacity has been good for the parks and how they are getting higher ratings than ever, which makes me think WDW and DLR are going to keep the reservation system and be more restrictive with capacity in the future.

I think as enthusiasts we become ethnocentric and think that the huge crowds and extremely long lines at DLR and WDW are just kind of a normal or something to be dealt with, but for the families that are spending thousands of dollars/ using their precious vacation time and don't know what they are doing the massive crowds (and then add the Florida weather on top of it) make the experience miserable for them. It's not good for a company like Disney for people to be spending that kind of money and have that kind of experience and Chapek seems to understand that. For the non-enthusiast literally everything about WDW was stressful and now that there is no FP and lower crowds its overall a much better experience.

April 6, 2021, 2:45 PM

Don't count on capacity limits lasting that much longer. He resorts and DVC are cash cows and once those rooms are full you can expect things to go back to BAU.

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