The Walt Disney Company announced late Sunday that former CEO Bob Iger will return to head the company for two years in a move that stunned the entertainment industry.
Disney said in a statement that Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger in 2020, had stepped down from the position. Disney board chair Susan Arnold thanked Chapek for his leadership during “the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.”
She said directors believed Iger was “uniquely situated” to guide the entertainment behemoth during “an increasingly complex period of industry transformation.” Iger, 71, led Disney for 15 years as it absorbed Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel and Fox’s entertainment businesses, then launched its Disney+ streaming service.
Iger said in the statement that he was “thrilled” to return and “extremely optimistic” about Disney’s future.
“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,” Iger said.
Hollywood’s creative community had grumbled about Chapek’s cost-cutting measures and sometimes blunt approach to talent, while theme park regulars had been unhappy with price hikes. Earlier this month, Disney posted lower than expected results for its fiscal fourth quarter.
Chapek faced blowback early this year for not using Disney’s vast influence in Florida to quash a Republican bill that would prevent teachers from instructing early grades on LGBTQ issues. The bill sparked a spat between Disney and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
He was also criticized for his handling of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit last year over her pay for “Black Widow,” an unusually public conflict between the studio and a top Hollywood star. The 2021 Marvel film was released simultaneously in theaters and through Disney+ for a $30 rental.
Iger first came to power at Disney when the board ousted its fifth CEO, Michael Eisner, in 2005. The former TV weatherman won over Wall Street and Hollywood with bold acquisitions and public displays of respect for the creative community and the company’s storied history.