Robert A. Iger has extended his reign at Disney through 2026 as it continues to struggle to find an heir and questions arise about the viability of the company’s vaunted movie studios and theme parks.
The Walt Disney Company said Wednesday that Mr. Iger, 72, will remain CEO for two years after his previously announced retirement date, the company’s board of directors said in a statement. Mr. Iger reluctantly ended his first run at Disney in 2021, handing over the company’s top job to Bob Chapek, a former theme park executive. Mr. Chapek was fired in November and Mr. Iger returned as CEO.
At the time, Disney said Mr Iger had been asked to return “to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and work closely with the board in developing a successor to lead the company at the end of his term.” .” Mr Iger has repeatedly said he would retire for good when his contract expires at the end of 2024.
“My plan is to stay here for two years,” Mr. Iger told CNBC in November. “That was my agreement with the board and I prefer that.”
Many people at Disney and Hollywood were skeptical. During his first tenure as CEO, from 2005 to 2020, Mr. Iger postponed his departure at least three times. (He remained Disney’s executive chairman for a year after stepping down as CEO.)
In the eight months since Mr. Iger returned to Disney, he has taken swift action to cut costs – some $5.5 billion, in part from cutting 7,000 jobs, including at Pixar and ESPN – and to streamline the streaming business. to make Disney profitable. He also won a proxy battle with an activist investor, one that was due in part to Disney’s poor succession planning record. But a successor has not yet been found.
The board has been looking at candidates inside and outside the company, Disney said. Mr. Iger took a trio of executives to the Allen & Company Sun Valley media conference this week, the annual “summer camp for billionaires,” and they’re all seen as succession prospects: Dana Walden, a Disney Entertainment co-chair; her counterpart, Alan Bergman; and Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.
Disney is facing problems on almost every front, including new questions about its movie studios given the disappointing summer box office results for “Elemental,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and, to a lesser extent, “The Little Mermaid.” Disney also faces an ongoing strike by screenwriters, and negotiations between studios and SAG-AFTRA, the guild representing some 160,000 actors, for a new contract are going badly and could result in a strike as early as Thursday.
Unlike most of its rival media conglomerates, Disney can rely on its theme park business for profit and growth unless a recession hits. Lately, attendance at the company’s largest property, Disney World in Florida, appears to be dropping significantly.
Disney shares are trading at about $90, down 3 percent from a year ago and 54 percent from their peak in March 2021.