Disney Stuns Hollywood, Reinstates Former CEO Bob Iger to Replace Chapek

The well-liked 71-year-old has agreed to lead the company again for two years, replacing his replacement—who had a remarkably rough two-year leadership stint

In a move that has stunned much of Hollywood and entertainment industry watchers, the Walt Disney Company on Sunday made an unprecedented move and brought back longtime Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger to again lead the company, taking over for his castellated replacement, Bob Chapek.

Iger ended his four decades with Disney with a 15-year stint as CEO, during which the company saw incredible success—particularly with Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox studios, all of which were acquired under his tenure. Polished, creative-friendly, and well-liked within the company and across the industry, the 71-year-old has agreed to serve as CEO for two years with “a mandate from the Board of Directors to set the strategic direction for renewed growth,” Disney said in a statement.

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger said. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”

He is expected to work with Disney’s Board of Directors in 2024 to appoint his successor—again. Iger succeeds Chapek, who “stepped down from his position,” according to the company statement.  Board Chair Susan Arnold commented on his exit on Sunday.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” she 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.

“Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide—all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership,” Arnold added.

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Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek and Executive Chairman Bob Iger at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, 2021. (GERARDO MORA/GETTY IMAGES)

In June, Chapek signed a three-year contract extension to remain as Walt Disney Company CEO. His sudden exit this week ends a 26-year career with the House of Mouse. Beginning in the company’s lucrative Home Entertainment division, Chapek later went on to lead Disney Parks & Resorts before ascending to the chief executive position.

His rocky two years as CEO saw him not only navigating the reopening of Disney parks and resorts as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions eased but also at the helm in the company’s foray into the streaming wars with, Disney+; the platform has seen steady growth since its debut but it was revealed recently that it will lose $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter of this year. Chapek was also forced into a battle with Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis that began with the outcry of Disney staffers over the state’s controversial Parental Rights in Education “Don’t Say Gay” bill and soon saw the passing of legislation stripping Orlando’s Disney World of its tax breaks and revoking its special self-governing status.

City News Service contributed to this report

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