Bob Chapek ‘undermined’ by former Disney head Bob Iger, ousted after clash with CFO: report

Amid tumbling stocks, political feuds, and the loss of billions of streaming dollars, it was a phone call from Disney’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) that ultimately proved instrumental in the downfall of former CEO Bob Chapek and the reinstatement of Bob Iger as head of the multimedia giant.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Bob Iger “never really let go” after announcing his retirement as CEO of Walt Disney Co. in February 2020 and, “acting almost as a shadow CEO,” he “undermined” Chapek, who Iger himself chose to succeed him.

As woke scandals, the COVID pandemic, and fights with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis plagued Chapek’s reign over the Magic Kingdom’s many assets, his support soon eroded.

“One by one, Mr. Chapek had lost support of Disney fans, studio talent, executives, employees, Wall Street and, finally, the company’s board,” according to the WSJ.

 

Things finally reached a tipping point during a November 8 earnings call, during which “Mr. Chapek glossed over a $1.47 billion loss in Disney’s streaming division and focused instead on such successes as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, one of Walt Disney World’s live attractions.”

The next day, Disney’s shares tanked, falling 13.2%, marking one of the largest one-day drops in the history of the company.

“Other chief executives might have weathered the setbacks,” WSJ writes. “But none had Mr. Iger breathing down their neck.”

CFO Christine McCarthy placed a call to Iger, who had reportedly characterized his successor as “incompetent,” and asked him to consider returning as CEO to the company he had headed for 15 years.

“Two days later, Board Chair Susan Arnold offered him the job, knowing he would likely accept,” WSJ reports.

The power struggle between Chapek and Iger began almost as soon as Chapek took the helm of the happiest place on earth.

“From the beginning of Mr. Chapek’s tenure, there was tension with his predecessor,” WSJ explains. “When the Covid-19 pandemic forced theme parks to close early in 2020, the two men fought over a plan to furlough more than 100,000 Disney parks employees.”

Iger convinced the board that it would be better to hold off on the layoffs to give Congress the chance to pass legislation aimed at softening the economic impact of the pandemic, while Chapek was looking to quickly slash costs and save money.

To his deputies, Chapek said he wasn’t in full control of the company, a complaint that was given credence in an April 2020 interview between Iger and the New York Times in which Iger said he would have stepped back, but couldn’t because of COVID.

“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!” Iger stated, infuriating an already incensed Chapek.

After two tumultuous years, on November 20, Iger stepped back into the spotlight and Chapek was out.

In a statement, Arnold thanked him for his service.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” Arnold said. “The board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period.”

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