‘Uniquely suited:’ Breaking down Disney’s comms on Bob Iger’s return

Iger, who replaces Bob Chapek, returns to the company after a hiatus.

Iger at this year's Vox Media Code Conference. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

BURBANK, CA: The Walt Disney Company said in a statement on Sunday that former CEO Bob Iger is “uniquely suited” to lead the company forward.

Iger, who was reinstated as Disney’s top executive effectively immediately, previously held the role for 15 years until February 2020. He has replaced Bob Chapek, who has “stepped down” from the position. 

“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,” said Susan Arnold, chairman of the Disney board, after thanking Chapek for his service, in a statement. 

Arnold’s language suggests Disney rehired Iger to steady the ship during a time of investor unease. This month, the company revealed fiscal Q4 results that missed analysts’ expectations on the top and bottom lines

Chapek also recently announced plans to freeze hiring and eliminate jobs, amongst other cost-cutting measures.

Following news of Iger’s return, Disney shares jumped on Monday. 

Emphasis on employees

Disney’s statement focused particularly on Iger’s relationship with the brand’s senior leadership and employee base. 

Arnold emphasized that 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 that “he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide.”

The aforementioned factors, Arnold noted, “will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.”

Disney’s concentration on Iger’s relationship with employees seems far from coincidental, given some of Chapek’s stumbles during his brief stint. After Chapek declined to publicly condemn Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, he wrote a letter to employees apologizing for his “silence” on the matter. Staffers then staged walkouts in protest and wrote an open letter expressing their disappointment in the company’s leadership for failing to respond.  

Disney sought out Iger

According to Iger, who was only quoted once in the announcement, Disney directly called the former chief executive out of retirement.  

Iger said in the statement that he was “thrilled to be asked by the [Disney] board to return as its CEO.”

“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 added. 

The boomerang executive is on a timetable 

Iger’s second time around as CEO is slated to last only two years, with a “mandate from the board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth.”

Before he departs, the statement continued, Iger will also work closely with the board to develop his successor. 

Disney’s decision to outline Iger’s contract length appears to be an attempt to prevent investors and consumers from being blindsided by another CEO departure, ensuring stakeholders that the company will be better prepared in appointing a leader next time. 


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