The Rasulo/Staggs Battle to Replace Bob Iger at Disney Heats Up

January 17, 2015, 2:37 PM · Jay Rasulo just threw an interesting twist into the mystery of who will be Bob Iger's replacement as the head of the Walt Disney Company.

Jay RasuloRasulo, the current chief financial officer for Disney and the former head of the Disney parks, is one of two leading candidates to replace Iger when Iger's contract is up in 2018. The other is Tom Staggs, the Disney Parks chairman who swapped jobs with Rasulo in 2009. Rasulo's contract as CFO is up at the end of the month, and he's not yet signed an extension.

That's promoting quite a bit of speculation about what Rasulo's planning. Disney is expected to name a Chief Operating Officer this summer, who is expected to be Iger's heir apparent. So far, the speculation about Rasulo's motivation for not signing an extension falls into two camps: (*Update: Just summarizing what we've seen on Twitter and overheard in the parks here.)

1. He is expecting to get the COO job, so he's holding off on signing an extension until he gets the COO assignment and its better financial terms.

2. He is not expecting to get the COO job, so he wants to be free of a contract with Disney so he can walk immediately once Staggs gets the gig.

For what it is worth, in the five years that Staggs has been running the Disney theme parks, I have yet to encounter a single cast member who has said that he or she preferred Rasulo in that job. Everyone I've spoken with in the parks division has preferred Staggs. While that might just mean that Staggs is a better fit for the theme park gig, let's remember that theme parks are the second-biggest moneymaker in the Disney corporation, behind ESPN. And who helped negotiate the deal that brought Disney ESPN in 1996? Tom Staggs.

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Replies (9)

January 17, 2015 at 5:00 PM · I worked as a Cast Member at Disneyland Paris when Rasulo was in charge there and he was held in very poor regard by almost all the park ops people. The man may be a financial wizard but he just doesn't understand theme parks or why people visit them. He'd be an appalling choice to replace Iger!
January 17, 2015 at 5:11 PM · Disney should spin off ESPN and its other TV channels into a separate company. Rasulo could be CEO of ESPN and the TV channels. Staggs could be CEO of Disney. Disney/ESPN has gotten too big. Both companies would be run better if they were run separately. Disney stock would also be more valuable if spun off into two separate companies.
January 17, 2015 at 8:16 PM · While I'd prefer neither Staggs nor Rasulo become CEO (purely based on what I fear would continue to happen with the parks), Staggs would be my choice of the two, and if this development implies there's even the slightest chance that Rasulo might be leaving the company outright, then I'm pleased. Then we'd just need Staggs to get a better offer at some other company, freeing up the Disney CEO slot be filled by new blood, which the company desperately needs. Wishful thinking!
January 17, 2015 at 9:23 PM · I really hope that it isn't Rasulo. Staggs hasn't been great, but Rasulo is the driving force behind so many of the moves that focus on efficiency over new attractions. Is there an option C?
January 18, 2015 at 12:41 AM · This article has a lot of speculation, but where else in the press is this being discussed? I don't see this topic heating up. As an active Disney shareholder for more than two decades I fully expect the Board's search for a new CEO will include candidates outside the company. Jay Rasulo and Tom Staggs are not assured the job.

The biggest moneymaker for the company is the media networks combined, not just ESPN.

January 18, 2015 at 3:43 AM · Rasulo would be an amazing choice!!!


January 18, 2015 at 11:02 AM · Gabriel: Great comment. I'm still laughing.
January 18, 2015 at 8:52 PM · Disney should spin off ABC and Touchstone into a separate company. Disney is so big with Marvel and Lucasfilm, that its time they shed a little of its portfolio. Other than Rodger Rabbit, what has Touchstone made that relates to the rest of Disney? ABC does have some synergy involved, but Disney could shift their resources elsewhere. With the money from spinning them off, they could invest more into the parks, and I don't mean Shanghai. Maybe finally open a park in Texas or get build another park at Disneyland. Disneyworld and Disneyland especially have become over crowed. Another resort and another park at Disneyland would help reverse that. Disney will never sell ESPN, but a more separate leadership would help.

Igor is better than Eisner was in the later years, but he is too focused on connecting everything together, and creativity has taken a back seat. Synergy is great, but its not everything.There are too many Pixar sequels and live action remakes of stuff Disney has already mastered in cartoon form. Walt may have invented synergy, but story was still the center of everything, promotion was always second.

January 19, 2015 at 4:22 PM · Option C: Bob Iger will sign a new contract in 2018. That's probably the real plan.

What are the most important qualities that the next Disney CEO should have? That question would make for a great article and an interesting discussion!

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