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Earlier this week, in a move that’s been characterized as “an implausible screenplay,” Bob Iger reclaimed his throne as CEO of Disney. “Wait,” you might be asking yourself, “Wasn’t Bob Iger Disney’s last CEO?” Yes, he was, and he took the crown from Bob Chapek, his hand-picked successor, whom Disney’s board pretty much just fired. All of which raises another question: What gives?
Chapek’s ouster comes after nearly a year of not-great-Bob moves. For one, there was the company’s pivot-to-streaming, which netted the company lots of subscribers and helped it keep up with the industry but also led to the disappearance of millions of dollars in “peak” losses. There was also the company’s fumbled response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and what’s now seemed like months of weakening Wall Street confidence. Bringing back Iger, a head honcho respected by investors and creatives, signals a bold move—one that’s already sent analysts chirping about the Mouse House’s rebound.
But that’s just the money stuff. The real impact of Iger’s return, which is already underway, will be on the direction he takes Disney’s IP, which has felt a little afloat lately. (Though this isn’t all on Chapek; Disney makes blockbusters, and blockbusters weren’t in too high demand during much of his tenure, which began in early 2020.) Iger, you’ll remember, was the mastermind behind Disney’s purchase of Marvel in 2009 and its purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. Now, those are two of the biggest jewels in the Disney crown—or Infinity Stones in its gauntlet, or whatever.
In this respect, Iger has always been a sort of tough-but-fair dad. He’s doggedly championed those two franchises, both of which are now past their 10-year anniversaries with the company. But he has also known when to pump the brakes. He was aggressive in buying 21st Century Fox (thus returning the likes of the X-Men to their Marvel home), but also pulled back when it seemed like Lucasfilm was flooding the field with too many Star Wars movies.
Iger effectively resumed his duties as soon as news of his emplacement first emerged (a move that reportedly blindsided Chapek). And pundits are already speculating about what he’ll do, with CNN bluntly saying “Can Bob Iger fix Disney?” There’s talk that he’ll renew faith among Disney creatives, and that he’ll take a hard look at Disney’s streaming properties like Hulu and cable networks like ESPN, the latter of which may not have the appeal it did before the days of Netflix and Amazon Prime. If anyone can figure it out, it’s Iger.
Disney reportedly didn’t consider any other candidates before offering the reins back to Iger. If there’s a misstep here, that could be it. Iger is definitely the one who can straighten up the Mouse House now. But eventually, it’ll need to be rebuilt—and the architect for that is still out there.