Back in November 2022, Disney’s Board of Directors shocked Guests around the world when they announced that CEO Bob Chapek had been fired and would immediately be replaced by former Disney CEO Bob Iger. Even though the news was surprising, it was welcome, as many were not fans of Chapek’s cost-cutting and price raising while things seemed to be going downhill regarding how the Parks were being maintained. Iger was the light at the end of the tunnel, since he had made Disney so successful and amazing in the past.
Almost immediately after Iger returned as CEO, it was made clear that his contract will only be through the end of 2024. In that time, he will help Disney get back on track financially and get back in Guests’ good graces. Iger will also work on finding the perfect person to take over for him after he finally steps down. The popular CEO had not really mentored anyone to take his place the first time around, as he planned to mentor someone when he stepped into the Executive Chairman role, but the Board of Directors pressured him for a name. Finally, Iger threw out Chapek’s name, and in the years since, has called that move “one of his worst business decisions.”
On February 8, The Walt Disney Company held its first quarter earnings call for the fiscal year and, during that call, Iger made some big announcements. One of the biggest moves Iger made was naming Dana Walden and Alan Bergman the heads of Disney Entertainment — a unit that will encompass both film and television and give a lot of creative power back to the creatives. Prior to this move, Walden was head of Disney General Content Entertainment after Bob Chapek shockingly fired Peter Rice, someone who was threatening to Chapek’s CEO role.
When Chapek fired Peter Rice, many speculated that, while Rice wanted to be CEO, Walden was really the bigger threat. She is well-liked, even more well-respected, and completely capable of being CEO. With Walden now stepping into an even bigger role at Disney, is Bob Iger indicating that he may have found the perfect person to replace him?
Here’s more on what Walden’s new position will mean in terms of possible succession, per The Hollywood Reporter:
Included in that is considerably more executive function, giving her both operational and financial control, which she didn’t previously have inBob Chapek’s now-dismantled Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution structure. This could help dull one of the knocks against Walden in the succession race, which has been that she lacks the business-side experience to be the CEO of a major public company. Rightly or wrongly, Walden has historically been perceived as a creative maestro who was then paired with a business executive; for many years, that suit was Gary Newman.
The other knock has been that Walden doesn’t have real film experience, having come up through the television side (notably, as Iger did). And while the new structure keeps Bergman firmly in control of Disney’s film business, Walden should at least have visibility into the operation by virtue of their co-chair titles (ditto for Bergman into TV). To be sure, filmmakers should not expect her to be weighing in on such things as what movies are made, just as Bergman won’t be telling Walden what TV series to order, but they will both be keyed in on all top decisions given that the film and TV operations now operate as one.
Neither Iger nor Walden has commented on what will happen with the pair after Iger steps down. The two were close while Iger was CEO and remained that way while Chapek was in charge.