Robert Iger has extended his reign at Disney to 2026, as an heir remains difficult to find and questions develop over the viability of the company’s movie studios and theme parks.
The Walt Disney Company said Wednesday that Mr. Iger, 72, will remain as CEO for two years after the previously announced re-retirement date, the company’s board of directors said in a statement. Mr. Iger reluctantly ends his first Disney ride in 2021, handing the company’s top job to Bob Chapek, a former theme park executive. Mr. Šapek was fired in November, and Mr. Egger returned as CEO.
At the time, Disney said Mr. Iger was asked to return “to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and work closely with the Board of Directors in developing a successor to lead the company upon completion of his term.” Mr. Egger has said repeatedly that he will retire for good when his contract expires at the end of 2024.
“My plan is to stay here for two years,” Mr. Iger told CNBC in November. “That was my agreement with the board of directors, and that’s my favorite.”
Many people in Disney and Hollywood were skeptical. During his first term as CEO, from 2005 to 2020, Mr. Iger delayed his departure at least three times. (He continued as CEO of Disney for a year after stepping down as CEO.)
In the eight months since Mr. Iger returned to Disney, he has moved quickly to cut costs — about $5.5 billion, in part by cutting 7,000 jobs, including at Pixar and ESPN — and propel Disney’s broadcasting operation toward profitability. He also won a proxy battle with an activist investor, one of which turned in part to Disney’s poor record on succession planning. But no successor has yet been identified.
Disney said the board was looking at candidates both inside and outside the company. Mr. Iger brought three executives with him to Allen & Company’s Sun Valley media conference this week and its annual “Billionaires” summer camp, and they’re all seen as potential for succession: Dana Walden, co-chairman of Disney Entertainment; Her counterpart is Alan Bergman. and Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of the Disney Parks Board of Directors, Experiences and Products.
Disney is dealing with problems on nearly every front, including new questions about movie studios, given the disappointing summer box office results of “Elemental,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” and, to a lesser extent, “The Little Mermaid.” Disney also faces an ongoing screenwriters’ strike. Negotiations between the studios and SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents about 160,000 actors, for a new contract were going badly and could lead to a strike as early as Thursday.
Unlike most of its rival media conglomerates, Disney can count on its theme park business to be profitable and grow — unless a recession hits. Recently, attendance at the company’s largest property, Florida’s Disney World, seemed to do the same significantly weakened.
Shares of Disney were trading at about $90, down 3 percent from last year and 54 percent from their peak in March 2021.