Walt Disney, a pioneer of the animation industry and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, will rightly always be revered. So should Bob Iger, who became The Walt Disney Company CEO in 2002.
For Bob Iger, the The Walt Disney Company CEO in charge of buying Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars maker Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, will end his 15 years at the helm of what he has seen become a global media giant.
Iger, 69, is stepping down from the role almost two years earlier than had been expected, having previously stated he would leave when his contract expired at the end of 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,” Bob Iger said in a statement from The Walt Disney Company.
Iger will remain executive chairman and direct The Walt Disney Company’s creative endeavours until the end of 2021, according to The Walt Disney Company.
Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will replace Iger as CEO, effective immediately. Chapek will continue to report to Iger and be appointed to the board of directors at a later date.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world,” Chapek said in a statement from The Walt Disney Company. “Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team.”
On a call with investors shortly after the announcement, Iger addressed the timing of his announcement, 22 months before he was expected to retire at the end of 2021. Iger said he wanted to focus on the creative side now that major projects like the Fox merger and launch of Disney+ had taken place. Iger said he would be able to help transition Chapek into the role while serving as executive chairman, CNBC reported.
“With everything else falling into place, the time seemed right,” Iger said.
Iger has been instrumental in making Disney a media powerhouse with key acquisitions and content plays. He launched Disney+, immediately making Disney a popular streaming service provider. Disney said the service had 26.5 million paying subscribers during the first quarter of 2020 after launching in November.
Iger clearly considers the US$71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, which would add even more content to its streaming library, as the right time to go. The deal took more than a year to conclude and includes the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, an additional 30% stake in Hulu, cable channels FX and National Geographic, and Indian media conglomerate Star India.
Earlier Iger added Star Wars and Marvel movies through its acquisitions of Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment, each for about US$4 billion. Shortly into his tenure as CEO, Iger announced Disney’s US$7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, which made popular films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo.
Iger also launched a theme park in Shanghai, China, which attracted 11 million visitors in its first year. Disney Parks is the world’s most visited theme park company worldwide. It has six resorts Disneyland Resort, California, and Walt Disney World, Florida; Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort, all with an array of theme parks.
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