It's no secret that The Walt Disney Company is going through an extreme period right now. While shelter in place order and social distancing are major problems for many businesses, Disney, even more than other entertainment companies, relies on people that have freedom of movement. Nobody knows quite what the future holds but it looks Disney could go through some significant and long lasting changes due to this situation, and it will be mostly due to Bob Iger, even though he's the company's former CEO.
It was the end of February when The Walt Disney Company announced that Bob Iger was stepping down as CEO of Disney, and being replaced by Bob Chapek, the head of Disney's Parks division. Iger was set to remain with the company in the new role of Executive Chairman, but Iger explained that his primary focus was to be creative development. Iger was making sure that the movies and television created by the company would be in the best possible place for long term success.
However, according to a new story in the New York Times, it appears that these trying times have pushed Bob Iger back into a position where's essentially the de facto CEO, even if Bob Chapek still has that title. And this isn't simply a case of Iger being a figurehead who instills confidence. He's reportedly looking at ways to permanently change the Walt Disney Company. This could include ending the practice of creating television pilots and doing expensive upfronts. We could also likely see Disney reopening with less total office space, and even with a permanent reduction in employees, though Iger told the Times any decision regarding the full-time workforce would not be made by him, but rather by Bob Chapek.
Cutting costs is certainly going to be a big part of the future for many companies that have seen significant losses with a lot of people not spending money on entertainment. However, for Disney's long term success the entertainment giant needs to make people confident in going back out and joining other people for entertainment. People need to go theme parks, get on cruise ships, and visit movie theaters. Bob Iger has already suggested that when Disneyland and Walt Disney World reopen, we could see some sort of screening taking place where guests temperatures are taken.
The only bright spot for Disney has been Disney+, but the new streaming service was launched knowing full well it would be years before it showed any real profit.
Certainly, it's not too shocking to see Bob Iger take a position of authority like this under the circumstances. No matter how great the confidence there could be in Bob Chapek, this is an extraordinary situation, and certainly, part of the reason that Bob Iger left the CEO role, but didn't leave Disney, was to help aid in a smooth transition and be there if he was needed.
Considering that Bob Iger had put off retiring a few times before, it does make one wonder if now was really the best time to start the transition. From all reports, the decision to make the switch was made months ago, before all of this.
At some point, Bob Chapek will be the one steering the Disney ship, but it could be that the Disney he gets will be quite different from the one he thought he was being handed back in February.
Image Courtesy Disney/Disneylandnews.com