A day after the shocking announcement of Bob Iger’s return to Disney and the consequent ousting of his successor-turned-predecessor Bob Chapek, a stunned Hollywood grapples with exactly what the move will mean for the entertainment giant in the near- and long-term future.
But while there’s no shortage of questions being asked, two things are certain. First, investors are excited that he’s once again reigning over the Magic Kingdom. Disney shares closed up more than 6% Monday on a day when the Dow Jones was slightly down. Second, Iger is moving quickly — he doesn’t even wait a full 24 hours to announce sweeping changes — to dismantle Chapek’s restructuring of the company.
The speed at which Iger is racing is particularly remarkable considering that Disney’s board of directors made its overture for Iger to return to the embattled company as recently as Friday. “It literally started on Friday and ended on Sunday,” one person with knowledge of the matter told CNN, adding that Iger “felt obligated to go back because he really cares about the company.”
Now he’s already calling big games.
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In a Monday night memo sent to employees at Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, a key organ of the company Chapek founded that frustrated some creatives, Iger announced that Kareem Daniel, the department head and an ally of Chapek, ” would leave the company. ”
Iger also announced that the entertainment giant will undergo a broader transformation with his return at the helm. “In the coming weeks we will begin to implement organizational and operational changes in the company,” Iger wrote to employees. “My intention is to restructure things in a way that values and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are.”
Iger added that he asked Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy to “work together to design a new structure that puts more decisions in the hands of our creative teams and streamlines costs.” Iger said the goal is to “put the new structure in place over the coming months.”
Aside from Iger’s reshuffle of Chapek’s reshuffle, the Disney boss could also reverse another important decision by Chapek that’s just weeks away from taking effect: the Disney+ price hike. Iger launched Disney+ for just $6.99 a month and, as reported by CNBC’s Alex Sherman, his strategy was to “slowly increase prices over time.” However, Chapek abandoned that modus operandi earlier this year when he bumped the price to a whopping $10.99 per month.
As we look further ahead, there are many bigger questions: What will Disney be like when Iger’s two-year deal expires? How will Iger position and transform the company for the digital age? Could he take a step to ditch ABC and the broadcasting division? Or maybe strike a mega deal to eat up a company like Netflix? Or will Disney itself be eaten by a Big Tech giant like Apple?
A source at a top talent agency pointed out that the biggest question Iger has to answer is how he “tops his last run as CEO.”
“The world is a much more complicated place than it was just a few years ago and it will be difficult to live up to the reputation he’s built as the most impressive media CEO of all time,” the source said. “And he will have a short runway to please Wall Street, his staff, creative partners and audiences.”
“So much for going to the top.”