Despite recently agreeing to a three-year contract extension -- a move that was seen as a vote of confidence from the company's board -- Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report CEO Bob Chapek has stepped down effective immediately.
Chapek will be replaced by his predecessor, long-time Disney CEO Robert Iger who previously spent over 15 years as the company's leader. Iger will return to the top job for a two-year period "with a mandate from the board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the board in developing a successor to lead the company at the completion of his term," the company shared in a press release.
The move comes after Chapek came under criticism for a number of issues including his messy public fights with "Black Widow" star Scarlett Johansson and his very public political spat with Florida Governor, and rising Republican star, Ron DeSantis.
Disney's share price has also fallen just over 41% year-to-date.
The change in leadership is being framed as Chapek "stepping down from the position," according to a Disney press release.
Disney's Board Wanted a Steady Hand
Iger transformed Disney presiding over the purchase of animation studio Pixar as well as buying Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and Marvel. Those deals, which some questioned at the time, have proven to be incredibly lucrative and really the foundation of Disney's current business model.
"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," Board Chairman Susan Arnold said in a statement. “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 will remain chairman of the board and the change in CEOs took effect immediately.
Iger Changed Disney's Future
In addition to adding to Disney's intellectual property with the Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel deals, Iger also presided over a huge period of investment in the company's theme parks. That included adding "Pandora: The World of Avatar" to Disney World's Animal Kingdom and building the fully immersive "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" at Florida's Hollywood Studios and California's Disneyland.
Iger also oversaw Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox, a move that put "The Simpsons" under the Disney umbrella while also giving it ownership of the "Avatar" franchise.
“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."
Iger formally left Disney last December, having already ceded the CEO chair. In his last months with the company, he served as executive chairman overseeing its creative ventures.