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Anxiety, $19 Billion Debt and an Eye for Talent: The Legacy of Bob Iger

A recent analysis shows that current Disney CEO Bob Iger is far more responsible for the mess in which Disney finds itself than people hold him accountable.

It’s been a little over a month since Bob Iger returned to helm the Walt Disney Company and recovered the mantle of chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company from his chosen successor—the now ousted former CEO Bob Chapek. During this time, Iger has set about reorganizing the Mouse House, letting go of some of Chapek’s top allies like Kareem Daniel, visiting the Disney Parks, and meeting with Disney Cast Members and Disney employees.

Bob Iger Disney Politics

Related: New Report Suggests Bob Chapek Was Set Up To Fail

Disney fans wholeheartedly celebrated Robert Iger’s return (or perhaps more accurately, Chapek’s exit). Many were so confident in Disney taking the proper steps to return to its former glory that Disney stock even rose on the announcement of Iger’s return. Iger has already begun scoping out the extent of his clean-up job. He has been addressing Cast Members about plans to boost morale, setting the record about Disney getting involved in Florida’s politics, and even recently insisted it has never been a better time to be a Disney fan.

But while these all certainly cause for celebration, a recent analysis by Deadline points out that there’s more to this situation than meets the eye. Disney does find itself in a mess, yes. But the fingers that so callously and quickly point at Chapek and other Disney executives might also do well to consider Iger.

bob iger bob chapek tension

Related: Iger Was Not Disney’s First Pick for New CEO, They Were

An agency veteran noted, “Iger gets a lot of praise as an executive, a lot of it well deserved…But one of his greatest accomplishments may be sidestepping his missteps. The billions in debt that came with the Fox purchase, going all in on streaming, hemorrhaging TV and ESPN viewership, and the succession fiascos alone would have killed any other CEO.”

One studio insider even added, “He’s teflon like Reagan, but left a lot of mess over the years for others to clean up like (Bill) Clinton.”

 

disney cnbc predictions

Bob Iger, Christine McCarthy, Bob Chapek

Related: Last Year They Predicted Iger Would Return, This Year it Gets Spicy

The reality is that Disney is currently in a self-described “age of anxiety,” and Iger is far more responsible for that than is acknowledged. Consider that regardless of the uptick Disney’s shares saw when Iger’s return was announced, its stock has plummeted again and recently slumped to multi-year lows below $90. They declined more than 40% in 2022. It may not be the steepest drop in the hard-hit media sector but it is unsettling for investors nonetheless.

Iger is hailed for a ton of acquisitions: Pixar (2006, $7.4 billion); Marvel (2009. $4 billion); Lucasfilm (2012, $4 billion) that have more than made back their purchase price. This hasn’t been the case with Fox’s $71 billion price tag that scared away even Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, leaving Disney $19 billion in debt.

Bob Iger CEO Return Statement

Bob Iger with Mickey Mouse/Disney

But while these cases are often treated like dust swept under the carpet, its important to acknowledge an incredible skill on the part of the recently-returned Disney CEO. His ability to connect with and inspire creatives on both sides of the camera. “Not only do you feel he hears you, but that he will both protect you and your vision,” a tentpole scribe said of the CEO. Iger is also known to have an eye for talent, one that made delegation of corporate duties easy.

As Deadline concludes, the future could still be bright for Disney. Mr. Iger has a list of successes in his past (along with some failures), which, if he repeats, could leave him well able to retire contentedly at the end of his contract. The Disney CEO has stressed his 2.0 reign will return Disney to emphasizing and empowering creatives over accountants.

What will turn out for the future of the Mouse House and Disney fans? Only time will tell.

About Priyanka

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago.