Disney has a history over the past few decades of shaking up its corporate structure when necessary, and the company’s board did just that Sunday night when it voted to fire embattled CEO Bob Chapek and ask retired company chief Bob Iger to return.
Chapek took the reins at Disney in February 2020, and during his tenure, the company has become a lightning rod for controversy. The most obvious move that drew the ire of many Disney fans was his willingness to cave to woke cast members over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law earlier this year.
Many of Disney’s LGBTQ cast members fell for the media’s false characterization of the law as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and they pressured Chapek to speak out against it, which led to Disney losing the special governing structure it had enjoyed for over 50 years with the blessing of the state of Florida.
The episode also ended Disney’s longstanding policy of remaining relatively apolitical and courting politicians from both sides of the aisle who could act in the company’s best business interests. The clash with Florida also revealed the wokeness that Disney’s creatives were pursuing — which Chapek allowed to continue unabated.
As Disney courted the controversy, its stock prices took a hit. But the sparring match with the state of Florida isn’t the only damage that Chapek has done to the once-beloved company. Under his watch, Disney Parks abandoned its free and highly effective FastPass+ system, under which guests could choose to skip part of the line for certain attractions, and replaced it with a paid option that made an already pricey Disney vacation more expensive.
Chapek also allowed the parks to continue requiring guests to make a park reservation, a practice that began as a crowd control measure when the parks first opened back up after the pandemic. The changes that Chapek and his team made to the vacation experience have drained much of the spontaneity and fun from visiting the parks.
Guests also complained about declining quality in their experiences at the parks. In one survey from September of this year, over two-thirds of Disney guests admitted that Disney had “lost its magic” in recent years.
“In addition to the higher ticket prices, we have also reported on Guests noticing food portions and food quality going downhill,” reports Disney Dining. “Guests are also finding their Disney World hotel rooms lacking, even though prices for those rooms are at an all-time high.”
Disney Dining also reports that “nearly half of those polled said that they had postponed taking a trip to Walt Disney World because the cost had gotten so out of hand. Costs are so high that more than 92% of those polled felt that a Disney World vacation is now ‘out of reach for average families.’”
Iger has agreed to return to the company for two years.
Iger's email to Cast Members: pic.twitter.com/C5PoUiuhlD
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) November 21, 2022
Iger had previously served as CEO from 2005 to 2020, and that era was one of creativity and growth for the company.
“Iger grew Disney to new heights by acquiring Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006, Marvel for $4 billion in 2009 and Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, creating a powerhouse that in 2019 saw the company pass $10 billion in global box office sales,” the Hollywood Reporter points out. “The same year, Disney closed the unprecedented, $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox — including 20th Century Fox studio, Fox Searchlight, FX Networks and National Geographic — creating a global content powerhouse.”
The Iger years were also profitable for Disney; according to the Hollywood Reporter, “Disney’s market cap was roughly $55 billion when Iger took over in 2005, rose to $260 billion in January 2020, and has fallen to $167 billion as of Friday.”
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, in a statement. “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.”
As a dyed-in-the-wool Disney fan and amateur Disney historian, let me assure you that this is the best decision Disney could have made. Chapek was a terrible CEO, and replacing him was long overdue. Disney fans everywhere look to Iger to restore Disney to its better days of providing top-tier guest experiences and creating family-friendly entertainment not just for woke culture warriors but for everyone.