After 15 years of transforming Disney’s enchanted kingdom into an entertainment empire, Bob Iger will be able to rest on his laurels by passing the hand to another veteran of the group, Bob Chapek, who will have to convince investors of his ability to lead the group in the era of streaming.
“Robert A. Iger takes on the role of executive chairman. He will lead the company’s artistic initiatives, chair the board of directors and use all his experience (…) to ensure a smooth and successful transition,” announced Disney. in an unexpected statement on Tuesday.
The emblematic boss, who must leave the group at the end of 2021, therefore passes the baton to Bob Chapek, who rose in rank at Disney since 1993 until becoming head of amusement parks and derived products in 2018.
The news was not well received by the markets: the group’s share lost 1.6% in electronic trading after the close of the stock market.
The economic context no doubt plays a role, while fears linked to the epidemic of new coronavirus are causing Wall Street to unscrew.
“What is happening is very serious and worries us,” said Bob Iger during an interview on the American chain CNBC, in reference to the health crisis which forced his group to temporarily close amusement parks.
“It is unfortunate that (our announcement) is falling right now, but it is not something that we can control. And that absolutely did not play in the choice of the date,” he insisted.
– Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm … –
The 69-year-old leader had just assured analysts, during a conference call, that it was the “right time” to launch the transition, after the successful launch of the Disney + streaming platform and the finalization last year the acquisition of most of the assets of the former 21st Century Fox group.
“Our group has become more complex in recent months. But all the elements are in place, the strategy is deployed and I would like to spend as much time as possible on the creative part of the work, which becomes the highest priority”, a- he explained.
Champion of Disney’s family and police image, Bob Iger will continue to supervise a group that he has greatly expanded with the acquisitions of the animation studio Pixar in 2006 for 7.4 billion dollars (“Le Monde de Nemo”, “Toy Story”), from Marvel in 2009 for 4 billion (“X-Men”, “Spider-Man” and the whole series of “Avengers”), from Lucasfilm in 2012 for 4 billion (“Star Wars”, ” Indiana Jones “) and finally 21st Century Fox in 2019 for 71 billion.
In all, Disney’s market capitalization has increased fivefold under his tenure, the statement said.
But it is undoubtedly the successful launch of the Disney + streaming platform (28.6 million subscribers in less than 3 months) which will remain as one of Bob Iger’s main achievements.
With this new service, the entertainment giant, founded in 1923, has made a breakthrough in direct offerings to consumers as opposed to distribution via intermediaries like cinemas and television channels.
– “Outstanding CEO” –
“Disney + was an incredible and immediate success. It is perhaps one of the most important strategic pivots in the history of companies,” responded investor Matthew Ball, former director of global strategy at Amazon. Studios, for AFP.
“This success means that the Iger team is completely ready to make this division prosper after his departure. It is the mark of an outstanding CEO,” he added.
Disney + has built its popularity on a very rich catalog and a very inexpensive subscription, but this is only the beginning of the streaming war between the pioneer Netflix, the competitors Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV +. Not to mention Peacock (NBCUniversal) and HBO Max (Time Warner), which will land in the spring.
Bob Chapek, who has worked in studios, advertising, consumer products and amusement parks, said he is aware of the challenges and difficulties that lie ahead.
“All of our activities, like those of competitors, are disrupted. The technologies and ways of consuming our products are changing (…) We want to stay one step ahead and transform ourselves proactively rather than a posteriori”, he detailed to analysts.
Disney and the new CEO argued that the transition had been in the pipeline for several years and that Bob Iger had already started to prepare his successor, chosen unanimously by the board of directors.