After 15 years of what can only be described as one of the most successful runs of any company leader in history, Bob Iger stepped down Tuesday as CEO of the Walt Disney Co.
The move is effective immediately.
Iger is not completely leaving the Mouse House, however, not with his legacy of achievements since taking over as CEO in 2005 when Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy Disney, led a shareholder revolt over the management of the company under Michael Eisner.
Iger, 69, is taking on the new title of executive chairman and will help lead Disney’s creative ventures until his contract is up at the end of 2021.
Bob Chapek, 60, formerly the head of Disney’s parks and products, has been named the new CEO.
While a transition plan had been formulated, the abrupt news on Tuesday took some people – read: investors – by surprise.
“I just can’t comprehend it,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners. “This to me is just odd. The timing in the midst of everything is just odd. … “It seems strange to spend two years talking about how the focus is winning in streaming and to choose someone who does not have experience in streaming.”
But Iger insisted the time was right.
“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of 21st Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement.
While the mere mention of the word ‘Disney’ will always first and foremost be associated with its legendary theme parks – the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World drew 20 million visitors last year – Iger turned Disney from a company that skewed heavily on its parks and animated movies to a global media giant and content producer.
Iger was responsible for acquiring Lucasfilm and the lucrative Star Wars franchise; Pixar Animation Studios, which cranked out mega-hits such as ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Finding Nemo’; and Marvel Entertainment, home to Iron Man, Spiderman and friends.
Iger and Disney also just purchased Fox’s entertainment division for $71 billion as well as successfully launching the aforementioned streaming service, Disney+.
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