One day after the shock announcement of Bob Iger’s return to Disney, and the resulting ouster of his successor-turned-predecessor Bob Chapek, an astonished Hollywood is grappling with what exactly the move will mean for the entertainment behemoth’s short-term and long-term future.
But while there is no shortage of questions that are being asked, two things are certain. First, investors are thrilled to have him once again reigning over the Magic Kingdom. Disney’s shares ended Monday up more than 6% on a day that the Dow Jones was slightly down. Second, Iger is moving fast — not even waiting a full 24 hours to announce sweeping changes — to dismantle Chapek’s reorganization of the company.
The speed at which Iger is hurtling is especially remarkable given that Disney’s board only made its overture for Iger to return to the embattled company on Friday. “It literally started Friday and ended Sunday,” a person with knowledge of the matter told CNN, adding that Iger “felt a sense of obligation to go back because he really does care about the company.”
Now he’s already calling big plays.
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In a Monday evening memo sent to employees of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, a key organ of the company created by Chapek that frustrated some creatives, Iger announced that Kareem Daniel, the division’s chief and a Chapek ally, would “be leaving the company.”
Iger also announced the entertainment giant will be undergoing a broader transformation with him back at the helm. “Over the coming weeks, we will begin implementing organizational and operating changes within the company,” Iger wrote to employees. “It is my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are.”
Iger added that he had asked Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy to “work together on the design of a new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs.” Iger said the goal “is to have the new structure in place in the coming months.”
Outside Iger’s reorg of Chapek’s reorg, the Disney chief could also unwind another key decision made by Chapek that is just weeks from taking effect: Disney+’s price hike. Iger launched Disney+ at a mere $6.99 a month and, as CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported, his strategy was to “slowly raise prices over time.” Chapek, however, ditched that modus operandi earlier this year when he spiked the price to a whopping $10.99 a month.
Looking further into the future, bigger questions abound: What will Disney look like when Iger’s two-year deal is up? How will Iger position and reshape the company for the digital age? Could he make a move to shed ABC and the broadcast division? Or perhaps execute a mega-deal to eat a company like Netflix? Or will Disney itself be eaten by a Big Tech giant such as Apple?
One source at a top talent agency pointed out that the biggest question Iger will have to answer is how he “tops his last run as CEO.”
“The world is a much more complicated place than it was a few years ago and it is going to be hard to live up to the reputation he built as the most formidable media CEO ever,” the source said. “And he’s going to have a short runway to pleasing Wall Street, his staff, creative partners, and the audience.”
“So much for going out on top.”