The Walt Disney Company has named a new CEO.
Bob Chapek is replacing Bob Iger, effective immediately, the company announced Tuesday.
Chapek, 60, who has been with the company for 27 years and was most recently chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a position created in 2018, will take over Disney’s day-to-day operations, the company says.
That will allow Iger, who will stay on as executive chairman through Dec. 31, 2021, to focus on the company’s overall creative vision and strategy over his remaining two years with the company.
The time was right for Iger to step down as CEO, he said, now that Disney had successfully launched Disney+ in November 2019 and consolidated into the fold the Fox movie and television studios, acquired in a $71.3-billion transaction that closed in March 2019.
“We feel that this change gives us the ability to manage the company much more effectively … and enabling me to concentrate on what’s obviously very important,” Iger said on a call with investment analysts Tuesday afternoon. “It also sets up, we think, a great transition process that will lead to, basically, Bob taking over the company fully when I leave and at that point being far better versed in all the companies businesses and creative endeavors. it just made sense. It was that simple.”
Chapek is the seventh CEO in company’s nearly 100-year history. Disney is “extremely fortunate that we have in Bob someone that knows the company extremely well (and) that we know so well,” Iger said.
Last year, Iger said he planned to step down in 2021. He had previously set a target departure date of 2018, but in March 2017, his contract was extended to July 2, 2019. That December it was extended again through the end of 2021.
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Iger became Disney’s president and chief operating officer in 2000 and added the CEO title in 2005 after Michael Eisner departed. He became chairman in 2012.
Under Iger, Disney fended off a challenge from Comcast in 2018 to win the 21st Century Fox assets, which also included the FX and National Geographic channels, 22 regional sports networks, and Fox’s 30% stake in streaming service Hulu.
Iger’s acquisition strategy helped make Disney+ shine in an already congested streaming market in that it was stocked with content from Marvel and Lucasfilm, two studios acquired during Iger’s tenure, in 2009 and 2012, respectively, for about $4 billion each. Before that, Iger also oversaw Disney’s acquisition of Pixar for $7.6 billion in 2006.
His annual base salary is $2.5 million and he is eligible for a bonus of “not less than 300% of the annual base salary,” according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchanges Commission.
Chapek also will receive “a long-term incentive award having a target value of not less than $15 million” for each fiscal year of the agreement which goes through Feb. 28, 2023, according to the document.
His experience across Disney’s different companies including parks, consumer products and home video have prepared Chapek for the CEO spot, he says. “Everything in my career has been a consumer-oriented business,” Chapek said. “That’s where I played. The idea that now I will be able to take that background and experience including everything I have done in consumer products and in our parks and now employ to a direct-to-consumer business feels like it is well within my wheelhouse.”
Disney’s challenge, Chapek says, is “how do we continue to have a leg up on our competition and understand when the market is changing and stay ahead of that so that we are proactive transforming, as opposed to in any way reacting.”
The company had been working on the succession strategy for quite some time, Iger says. Still, the executive shuffle caught most Disney observers off-guard. “Did not see this coming – Wowza,” tweeted LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield.
Iger was with ABC-Disney for 45 years and as he told Bill Simmons on Simmons’ The Ringer podcast earlier this month has been in the business for 46 if you count his year as a weatherman in Ithaca, N.Y.
“As I look back, it was a combination of having a great work ethic—I was either just born with that or my parents instilled that in me – and I was always able to outwork other people and that got me far,” he said. “I never thought it was about intellect or even knowledge. It was just that I worked hard and I never complained about working.”
Contributing: Ed Baig
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko