Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS)
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2 Months : From Feb 2020 to Apr 2020
By Kimberly Chin
Walt Disney Co. said Bob Iger is stepping aside as the company's longtime chief executive, effective immediately, to be succeeded by the company's head of parks.
The promotion of Bob Chapek ends the company's search to replace Mr. Iger, whose planned retirement has been extended by years.
The 69-year-old Mr. Iger is leaving Disney after the company recorded one of the biggest box-office years in movie history and the successful launch of the Disney+ streaming service. The company's stock was trading near all-time highs until a recent selloff, driven in part because of fears about the impact from the coronavirus.
Dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus, which temporarily closed Disneyland in Shanghai, will be one of the challenges facing Mr. Chapek, who has run the company's parks since 2015. He also will have to deal with an evolving video-streaming market, declining subscribers to the company's ESPN network, the further integration of Fox studios and replacing a legendary CEO in Mr. Iger.
Under Mr. Iger, Disney further established itself as an entertainment giant housing Hollywood's most successful film studio, the world's biggest theme parks, and some of the biggest cable and broadcast networks. Mr. Iger built on that business by spearheading the acquisitions of Pixar Animation, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd. and the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox.
Mr. Iger, who became CEO in September 2005, now assumes the role of executive chairman and will direct the company's creative endeavors, through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021.
Mr. Chapek will report to Mr. Iger and become a board member at a later date, Disney said. Mr. Chapek has worked at Disney for more than 27 years, including stints with the company's consumer products and studio divisions.
The question of who would succeed Mr. Iger has loomed over Disney for several years, with Mr. Iger delaying his retirement multiple times. The succession process was thrown into disarray in April 2016 when Tom Staggs, a longtime executive considered an heir apparent to Mr. Iger, stepped down as chief operating officer after being told he was unlikely to be named CEO.
Mr. Iger has led the company for so long and with such hands-on attention that he and Disney have seemed inseparable to many employees and outside partners. That dynamic also occurred with founder Walt Disney and Mr. Iger's predecessor as CEO, Michael Eisner. Mr. Eisner left following strife among Disney shareholders and its board, a problem Mr. Iger isn't facing.
Disney's growth under Mr. Iger has been driven by its acquisitions: For a combined $15.4 billion, the company purchased Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. The acquisitions have put lucrative properties such as "Toy Story," "The Avengers" and "Star Wars" under the same roof as its storied animation studio, extending the franchise business model that allows Disney to exploit those characters at the box office, on toy shelves and at theme parks.
Mr. Iger's biggest buy was the $71.3 billion acquisition last year of the major entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, combining some of Hollywood's best-known studios, characters and franchises as media companies look to get bigger to better compete in a world where shows and movies are increasingly streamed.
That purchase added content to the company's Disney+ streaming service, which launched in November but already had 28.6 million subscribers through early February.
Mr. Iger said earlier this month that the service's trove of older programming, ranging from classic Disney movies to 30 seasons of "The Simpsons," has been as popular with subscribers as what he characterized as a modestly sized library of new, original content. About 65% of Disney+ users who watched "The Mandalorian," the buzzy new Star Wars series, watched 10 other movies or shows on the service, Mr. Iger said.
When Mr. Iger got the top job, Disney shares were trading at around $23. The stock closed Tuesday at $128.19. Sales have risen to $69.39 billion, through the fiscal year ended in September, from $31.94 billion in the year ended September 2005.
Disney shares slid 2.2% in after-hours trading following the announcement of Mr. Iger stepping down.
Write to Kimberly Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 25, 2020 17:45 ET (22:45 GMT)
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