After decades at the helm of the biggest entertainment company the world has ever seen, Bob Iger stepped down as CEO in 2020, making way for Bob Chapek. Iger didn’t leave The Walt Disney Company immediately. He stayed on as the company's executive chairman to help in the transition for the new CEO during a difficult time. But while Chapek was, it certainly appears, Iger’s choice for the job of CEO, it seems the two haven’t gotten along for some time, and they apparently barely interacted when Iger had his going away party.
A new report by CNBC dives into the apparently difficult relationship between Disney’s current CEO and the previous guy to have the job. While the two were perhaps never personally close, it seems that the relationship between them has been strained for some time. While Iger was supposed to help ease the transition for the new CEO, the two apparently rarely spoke during most of that period, resulting in it being clear to many within Disney that the two were not always on the same page.
One example given took place last November during a going away party at Bob Iger’s house before he left Disney for good. Bob Chapek was in attendance, but it's reported the two had very few interactions. At dinner, they sat at entirely different tables. Chapek was largely surrounded by Disney executives that he keeps close now. Bob Iger sat next to director Steven Spielberg. One of the guests at the party said the whole thing felt “awkward” and that the “tension was palpable.”
Nobody is saying the old and new CEO necessarily have to be friends but one would certainly expect them to interact more than they apparently are. They have something in common that few other people in the world have, being in charge of The Walt Disney Company.
According to the report, the tension stems from an an email Bob Iger wrote to the New York Times once month after handing over the reins to Chapek, where the new executive chairman implied that, due to the unprecedented times of the pandemic, he would be “actively helping” Chapek as he took over as CEO. But Chapek apparently did not take kindly to the idea that Iger’s help was necessary or requested.
And part of what makes the apparent complicated relationship between the two Bobs so interesting is that they do appear to be on the same page in many ways from a business perspective. The major reorganization of Disney and the creation of the Media and Entertainment Division, was something Iger himself had been considering. Though Chapek has made some significant changes to what Iger had planned, many of the core ideas were shared between the two.
Bob Chapek is a businessman with clear strengths, but he also has potentially significant weaknesses. In most cases that’s not a deal breaker, as any executive relies on others to help them in areas where they are less capable. However, it seems that one person who probably won’t be getting any phone calls for advice from the new Disney CEO is the old Disney CEO.
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