Embattled Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s Contract Renewed

Calling Chapek “the right leader at the right time,” the board voted unanimously to keep the CEO around for a while

In an unanimous vote Tuesday, Disney Co.’s board decided to renew CEO Bob Chapek’s contract. It was a moment some weren’t sure would ever happen.

His contract will be extended 3 years, to July 2025. Chapek took the job in February 2020.

Board chair Susan Arnold said in a statement that Chapek is “the right leader at the right time,” adding, “In this important time of growth and transformation, the board is committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob’s leadership is key to achieving that goal.”

The decision did not necessarily put an end to the speculation that Chapek’s position as CEO was weak—and that Disney was running down the clock on Chapek, whose contract was to expire by February 2023.

Regarding Arnold’s statement to the press, Deadline quotes one Wall Street source as saying, “If the board has to publicly put its support behind him, it means something is wrong.”

In a show of strength shortly before the contract vote, Chapek fired chairman of entertainment and programming Peter Rice in a brutal seven-minute meeting, curtly saying he was a “bad fit” and sending him away without any of the usual studio executive parting gifts, like a production deal. It was well-known that Rice was had been seen as a possible replacement for Chapek if the boss’s contract was not renewed.

Chapek is inheriting the Disney helped to put in its current state, for better or worse. The company is still recovering financially from the pandemic, with parks closing, reopening, and over again in China. Disney’s stock prices are low. Earning at the U.S. theme parks are a success, with visitors spending in record numbers across categories. However, a recession looms.

And of course Chapek still has that mess to deal with in Florida, after he spoke out (due to his employee’s pressure) against the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which became law. He then paused all political contributions in the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis reacted by dragging Disney into a culture war and engaging in revenge legislation that resulted in Disney World losing their special tax status and right to self-governance.

Chapek was the product of Bob Iger, who preceded him. Iger left the company in February 2020. He remained Disney’s executive chairman until December, when he finally exited the company completely.

Disney’s second-quarter earnings report, released May 17, was strong, and showed that Disney had added 7.9 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service, which was 52 percent above what analysts had projected.

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