Bob Chapek takes over as CEO at Disney

February 25, 2020, 3:32 PM · Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek has taken over as the Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, effective immediately. Chapek replaces Bob Iger, who becomes Disney's Executive Chairman through the end of his contract with the company on December 31, 2021.

"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 said in a statement released by Disney. "I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the Company’s creative endeavors."

Iger and Chapek
Bob Iger and Bob Chapek. Photo courtesy Disney

Chapek has overseen Disney's theme park division since 2015, having previously overseen the former Disney Consumer Products segment, which was folded into the Parks segment in 2018. He previously served as President of Distribution for The Walt Disney Studios and as President of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Indiana University and an MBA from Michigan State.

Disney will name a replacement for Chapek as head of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products at a later date. Chapek becomes the seventh CEO in Disney history, following Iger, Michael Eisner, Ron Miller, Card Walker, Donn Tatum, and founding CEO Roy O. Disney.

Replies (19)

February 25, 2020 at 3:46 PM

Sad day for fans of Disney Parks. I’m also hesitant to be excited for the future of the TV/film studios under his leadership. Almost all aspects of his experience is around sales. Chapek does not have the “soul” of a Disney fan. He is only concerned about the bottom line. Iger realized you have to spend money to make money.

February 25, 2020 at 4:08 PM

Hats off to Plastic Bob! His acquisitions have been nothing less than stunning giving such a much needed boost to film, theme parks, characters, merchandise and content to enable Disney+ to be viable. He has left a truly amazing legacy. Can't wait for a book on his entire Disney career.

Oh, how I wished they had tempted Steve Burke.

February 25, 2020 at 4:44 PM

Iger 2020

February 25, 2020 at 5:31 PM

Well, I'm sure the stockholders will be satisfied. This is marginally more exciting than....Paul Pressler.

February 25, 2020 at 5:38 PM

From multiple retirement delays to an immediate resignation.

Quite a mad lad that Iger.

February 25, 2020 at 5:46 PM

/\ I highly doubt this was a sudden decision, more like a sudden announcement.

Bob Chapek is in a very precarious position. Disney under Iger was so successful for so long that it's going to be very difficult for him to live up to whatever expectations there are. Disney is completely dominating in almost every industry its in and has been for a long time.

Also I think Iger staying on as executive chairman and taking over the creative side for the next two years says a lot about his confidence in the creative side of his successors lol.

February 25, 2020 at 6:03 PM

Great news, Bob is the only one who can take this company further down the road they have taken. His eye for detail, creativity, respect for the brand and jolly nature will sure do something to the D.I.N.O. company.

February 25, 2020 at 6:06 PM

Iger (far and away) is the company's largest stockholder. He will continue to hold sway over much of the company's major decisions.

February 25, 2020 at 6:17 PM

I wasn't the biggest fan of Iger, but I definitely think he was better for the job than Chapek. Honestly, very little that Disney has done since the mid-2000s has impressed me, and I don't foresee that changing under new leadership. I have to think that either Iger stepped down to pursue other interests (perhaps political) or to save Chapek after the disastrous year the parks had in 2019. Either way, it will be interesting to see where things go from here, but it's certainly looking less likely that I'll be renewing my pass when it expires this fall.

February 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM

"Disastrous"? Please.

February 25, 2020 at 9:59 PM

@TH Creative: They still cling to this idea Galaxy's Edge was a mega-flop....

Am wondering how this will work as some say Iger was a help, others placing tearing into him "ruining" things so see how it falls out but sure he'll still have a say in how things go.

February 25, 2020 at 11:22 PM

This announcement is so confusing to me. I would express my concern over the parks now even more knowing that Chapek is now in charge of the company, but I'm more perplexed at why this came so sudden. Such a high position doesn't get changed this quick unless something serious happened. I would think Iger would announce his leave months in advance, not announce it after it happened. I know Iger will still be in the company and he'll ease Chapek into the role until 2021 but still. Just came as a surprise.

February 26, 2020 at 11:09 AM

How does anyone know he will be bad for the parks? He had a boss above him that would have directed budgets to him. Perhaps he has wanted more for the parks than Iger would give him. Give him a few years as boss before he gets ripped to shreds. Iger was great for the company but not great for the hardcore Disney Parks fans. A lot of new rides and attractions and enhancements on the way. If the parks never changed people would complain they were stale but as soon as something changes it is a travesty and not what Walt would do. Walt was no saint. He built something great but it will always change and will always adapt. If they live in the past they will get left behind.

February 26, 2020 at 12:57 PM

Well, it was an interesting, abrupt exit (albeit not completely from the company). From one standpoint, I understand Iger's reasoning to step down, Disney + is up and running, the Star Wars attractions are open, and he was able to bring in Fox studios.

I also see it as an easy exit while things are good. If the economy or the Coronavirus break bad in a month or two, who would want to be leading the Disney ship into uncharted waters? Maybe he knows more than most of us.

February 26, 2020 at 6:18 PM

I believe we make miscalculations regarding Chapek. We have a limited scope of how he views things.

I believe he does not value cast members as much as Iger based on many of his recent comments about the "cast members being the entertainment" (a concern) This also demonstrates he did not value actors over the cast members. (a concern)

He has pushed harder than anyone to pull Marvel into the parks.(Something that I think he did not receive recognition for) While many projects we now enjoy began ideation before he took his parks and resorts post, Epcot is on his watch and I think is really the first one to want to take the risk of being a legend or a goat (in regard to EPCOT). It can go either way.

Chapek had to deal with the headwinds of a complex contract with Marvel and has slowly found more ways to create a Character, Merchandise, and Show and Attraction presence.

We at least should see what he can do.

I don't know what is out there for him to acquire? What would he go after. Iger did all the heavy lifting in that regard.

I think he will be judged on this:

How successful will his vision for Epcot be?

How creative will former FOX movie units be after their re-branding and new movies that are in pre-production post acquisition?

How will parks cast members perceive him and will he take on the economic and living conditions issues faced by employees' on both coasts?

Will the future investment in US park properties parallel the recent oversees park investment?

Will he make all 4 Florida Parks "full-day" experiences with sufficient ride capacity?

Will he be the one to recognize the model of the Disney resort in Florida has lost some of it's charm due to the intense planning and lack of flexibility of "day of" experiences?

Will he continue the trend of "plusing" food quality at parks & resorts?

Is creativity at his core not just in terms of leadership but continuing the trend of creative ride experiences and technology?

February 28, 2020 at 12:29 AM

@MikeW, Galaxy’s Edge still has a failure in how Rise of the Resistance’s boarding group has rolled out. Guests are super peeved when they arrive at park opening and all the spots are claimed within a minute. Nearly three months later, it seems people are more frustrated by the boarding group situation now than when it first opened.

And since both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios are standing by their lottery system, that falls on Chapek’s shoulders.

February 28, 2020 at 7:29 AM

@James - What do you suggest Disney do about the fact that the ride cannot come close to meeting demand? Use a standby line where guests are showing up at the gates at 4 AM or standing in line for 4+ hours? Use FastPass/FP+ where guests participate in a exact same "electronic lottery" as the Boarding Groups create only before the enter the park (meaning guests seeking to ride RotR don't bother showing up if they don't get a coveted spot on the attraction)?

Yes, the Boarding Groups system has become a royal pain in the you know what, but I just don't see any alternative until Disney can get the attraction to perform more reliably. The DHS version has been operating for almost 3 months now, which is well beyond a normal "break-in" period even for a super complicated and technical attraction, yet RotR still has its good days (where it handles over 150+ Boarding Groups) and its bad days (where it can barely take in 60 Boarding Groups). Until the attraction is more reliable, the Boarding Groups system is the most efficient, effective, and fair way to manage crowds and demand for RotR.

February 28, 2020 at 11:10 AM

Russell, I think Disney had it right when they were doing it on a first-come, first-serve system. It seemed to me like a more fair way of letting people who were super determined to ride to do so rather than relying on the performance of their phone. Sure, Disney would have to extend/add their employee shifts to account for the 4 AM arrivals, but this is a company with money to spare. They can more than afford to add labor, especially if it'll result in higher guest service.

Ideally, it would be a standby-only ride because that would stop people from inflating the wait times for the other rides to triple digits an hour after park opening. However, that clearly is not gonna happen any time soon.

February 28, 2020 at 4:51 PM

@James This goes back to my question "Will he make all 4 Florida Parks "full-day" experiences with sufficient ride capacity?".

I would have to say now, the scope expands beyond the Rise of the Resistance attraction. They are days away from the debut of Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway. With the amount of attractions space previously held by The Great Movie Ride, criticism will once again circle around capacity. They had to triple the capacity for Toy Story Mania a ride that just a few short years ago, was unattainable for many without a fast pass. Tron Light Cycle at peak operation can't even support 1,700 per hour. Let that sink in. We don't know what Cosmic Rewinds hourly capacity will be.

Runaway Railway, IMO may receive even more criticism if the ride capacity cannot approach the levels of Great Movie Ride.

Capacity planning is a difficult process because there is always a "saturation point" To build mass capacity for a ride without the benefit of that properties popularity and you're the "Universe of Energy".

I agree with Russell, the Boarding groups are the best solution until popularity incrementally diminishes (2 or 3 years from now). These days, there is always the bright shiny new attraction opening. It is the only mechanism providing equal opportunity at this point.

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