Insiders speculate on how long he would stay on the job amid a staff mutiny over his handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, “There’s a lack of understanding.” Disney is venturing into unexplored territory. The corporation only had two CEOs. Michael Eisner from 1984 to 2005 as well as Bob Iger from 2005 to 2020. With only two years on the job, Bob Chapek is facing a staff mutiny. Insiders are speculating about his future and who may succeed him. Entertainment chief Peter Rice and ex-CFO Tom Staggs would seem to be favorites. In 11 months, his contract will expire.
What Turmoil Is Going Inside Disney Because Of Bob Chapek
At this moment, it’s uncertain if Chapek, 61, will be able to implement a reset with Disney employees and creative partners. Chapek is included in the “In Memoriam” part of the Oscars program. One Disney veteran saw the last-minute cancellation of the company’s executive meeting, which was scheduled for Orlando in the final week of March, as ominous. “One was Chapek’s major chance, post-Iger, to express his leadership and direction in front of the top 300 executives throughout the world,” adds this source. “These Disney events are a combination of political rallies, coronations, sports camps, and proms.” He describes the postponement as “not necessarily deadly,” but “very serious and unsettling.” Even though the event has yet to be rescheduled, Chapek convened a two-day investor meeting.
The repercussions of Chapek’s original stance on Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation added to Disney’s and the creative community’s growing dissatisfaction with his leadership. He’s renowned as a world-class manager who prefers to talk rather than listen. “It’s amusing how many people have told me, ‘It’s such a huge mess, but I’m not shocked,'” another Disney source said. “That’s why it’s so tough to get back on your feet.”
Succession And Downgrades At Disney Plus
Succession is seldom straightforward. Before the board anointed Iger, Eisner hazed him. Meanwhile, due to his lack of artistic skills, Chapek, who had a long career in consumer items and amusement parks, was questioned early on. His was restructuring in October 2020, which gave his longtime subordinate Kareem Daniel control of distribution. It was perceived as a downgrade for creatives and an improvement for suits who had never produced a film or television show. Another jolt came in July 2021, when Scarlett Johansson challenged Disney over her compensation for Black Widow, and Disney retaliated. Many observers saw the argument, which resulted in a public spat with CAA’s Bryan Lourd, as a relationship-corroding struggle. Disney could have dodged this in the Iger era.
The extent to which Disney’s 11-member board of directors is concerned is unknown at this time. The CEOs of GM, Oracle, Nike, Lululemon Athletica, and Illumina are among those on the list. “None of them are from the media industry,” a Disney source claims. “It’s not like [former Time Warner CEO] Richard Parsons or [former Warners chairman] Bob Daly are on the board.” I suppose they’d be apprehensive about replacing Chapek. However, a long-serving official at the firm isn’t convinced. “I think they’ve got enough CEOs on there who know when someone’s a problem,” he adds, noting that the board’s chairman is homosexual. (Susan Arnold is the first openly homosexual chairman of the board.)
Chapek believed it was time to exert his leadership after Iger’s departure as executive chairman. At a companywide meeting in April, he was supposed to define the Chapek era’s ethos. The message would be, in part, that he would avoid publicly involving Disney in matters that he viewed as unrelated to the business or entity.
Bob Chapek’s Comments
The Florida legislation put him to the test before he could set out his case. Chapek’s comment that “business pronouncements do so little to affect results or minds” and that the way to effect change is “through the inspiring material we provide” triggered an outpouring of criticism almost immediately. The picketing took place at Disney, Pixar workers wrote a public statement, and walkouts were planned. “It’s like having a replacement instructor,” a source said. “Once the students catch a smell of [the teacher’s] inability to control the classroom, it’s all over.”
Several Disney officials and artistic partners took public views while Chapek reversed sides. He stated that the business had been hostile to the law from the beginning and had fought behind the scenes to defeat it. “I personally consider this rule as a breach of fundamental human rights,” Disney General Video Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice stated. Finally, Chapek delivered a full-throated apology and promised to embark on a listening tour.
Disney Veteran Claims Disney Has Upset Both Sides
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28, one day after it was criticized on the Oscars program. Disney urged for its repeal. However, a Disney veteran claims that Chapek could have framed the company’s objection to the bill sooner. It could be in a way that would have avoided DeSantis’ assaults on “woke Disney” by embracing the need to safeguard children from bad content. “Was this one so difficult?” he wonders. Disney, he claims, has now “managed to piss off both sides at the same time.”
Another longtime industry executive, not associated with Disney, also thinks the company could have taken a position from the start. “What [is Florida] going to do? Throw you out of Orlando?” he says, dismissing the idea that opposing the legislation would have alienated a meaningful number of red-state fans. One of Disney’s high-profile creative partners thinks the underlying issue is that Chapek doesn’t understand the importance of the employees who bring magic to the Magic Kingdom. “There’s a lack of awareness of what makes a company a company in terms of people and the culture,” he says.
Some Disney employees believe Chapek has already learned from his errors. As well as he will learn much more through his listening tour, allowing him to gain trust and go ahead. But, according to one industry expert, it won’t be simple. “People aren’t going to buy into it at this point, even if he sits there and smiles sweetly and listens,” he adds. “He’s not going to change people’s opinions.”