My fascination with Disney company palace intrigue extends back 40 years to when I was first a cast member ... It strikes me that (approximately) every 20 years, tumultuous events lead to an executive level shake-up that has typically evolved into a period of powerful creativity and growth in themed enetratinment.
After Mr. Disney's passing in 1966, there was a fair share of tumult at the executive level. Mr. Roy Disney comes out of retirement to steady the ship, followed by the arrival of Donn Tatum (CEO 1971-1980), followed by Card Walker and Ron Miller. During that rough ride the company opened its Florida resort -- 28,000 acres that included hotels, recreation and shopping facilities as well as two theme parks -- that eventually became the world's number one vacation destination.
However Mr. Miller's skillsets were not enough (in 1984) to deal with corporate raider Saul Steinberg, who exploited an opportunity and green-mailed the company for million. Mr. Miller's shortcomings undermined confidence in him leading to his replacement -- Michael Eisner. Working with his corporate partner Frank Wells, Mr. Eisner led an unprecedented period of growth.
When Mr. Wells died, Mr. Eisner established a firm grip -- butting heads with naysayers which resulted in the ouster of then board member Roy E. Disney -- who launched his "Save Disney" rebellion which was followed by the exit of Mr. Eisner (2005) -- a little more than 20 years after he got the job.
Enter Robert Iger who (through mergers and acquisitions and applied symbiosis across platforms) dramatically expanded the brand's footprint ... His early retirement (2020 -- only 15 years) leads to the rough and tumble tenure of Bob Chapek ... Mr. Iger returns (because he is bound by the corporate oracle [rule] of 20) and he faces a public battle with activist investor Nelson Peltz.
Mr. Iger eventually placates Mr. Peltz and moves forward to helm the creation of a new plan -- redeveloping corporate governance, content distribution and the reinvention of the company's methods of creative development.
Verdict: Disney's timeline (dating back almost sixty years) illustrates that history does seem to repeat. It strikes me that it is safe to predict the company's best years (with the arrival of a new CEO/President in 2024) could very well be just over the horizon.Tweet
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