Predicting internal politics at Disney: always one of my favorite things. I haven’t worked there in years and I wasn’t in a position to have good internal scoops on this stuff anyhow, so that’s my disclaimer.
What we know for sure: Bob Iger just returned to Disney; it was announced late on a Sunday night. Bob Chapek is completely gone. He just had his contract renewed this summer. Iger has a two year contract and will explicitly be responsible for developing his successor. This is all very sudden.
What I think is probably true based on reporting: this was very sudden internally as well. The Board of Directors made the decision. They thought about a few internal candidates but decided it wasn’t fair to put any of them in that situation. No matter how bad it looks to pull Iger back in, he’s probably the only person who could hit the ground running and the Board clearly needs him.
I’m not really competent to talk about strategy. “Do something different than Chapek.” I don’t expect Iger to stop trying to wring money out of the parks; he did as much of that as Chapek did. He’ll probably sell it better.
What I’m really interested in is who his successor will be. The Board sounds like they’re not gonna let him make that decision all by himself. That’s fair; Iger has made three choices of successor already and none of them worked out. Disney has always preferred to find a CEO from within, but this may signal a change there.
Again traditionally, the next CEO has worked in several types of Disney business. Chapek, for example, went from Home Entertainment (media focused) through Consumer Products to the Parks before becoming CEO. Thomas Staggs, who was in line for the CEO job at one point, went from CFO to Parks to COO before he and Disney parted ways. You need the broad experience. The corporate culture says you should have worked at the Parks, which are seen as the beating heart of Disney.
Riffling through the current leadership team, few of the obvious candidates have the experience range. Josh D’Amaro is an obvious possibility but he’s been almost purely Parks. Kareem Daniel is closely associated with Chapek; his future, as CNBC says, is murky. Alan Bergman has been all Studios. Jimmy Pitaro? Rebecca Campbell?
Iger’s got two years, which is enough time to train any of those talented executives on the aspects of the business they don’t know yet. Everyone expects a reorg, because Iger didn’t like Chapek’s reorg much. They have to at least have a list of possible names for the next CEO. If any of those names are external, it’s going to be a while before they show up at Disney, since negotiations take time. If the list boils down to internal candidates, things may move more quickly. There might be multiple candidates, since Iger has done competitive tryouts in the past.
It’ll be interesting to watch how things develop over the next few months. Watch for people on the current leadership team who wind up managing a very different division.
Afternoon update: Kareem Daniel is gone. That was quick. I think on reflection this’ll be worth a new post tonight or tomorrow, there are some interesting nuggets in there.