In a move that no one was expecting, the Walt Disney Company announced on Tuesday that CEO Bob Iger would be stepping down immediately, with chairman of parks, experiences, and products Bob Chapek taking the role of CEO effective today, Variety reports. Although Chapek was in the running for the CEO position, insiders did not view him as a frontrunner to be Iger’s succesor, and the abrupt timing of the announcement has investors scratching their heads. Iger explained the timing in a statement:
With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer business and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO. I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the Company’s creative endeavors.
Speaking to investors, Iger went on to say that the decision was “not accelerated for any particular reason other than we felt the need was now to make this change.” Iger will continue in the role of Disney chairman until his contract expires at the end of 2021, with Chapek reporting to him and the board directly. While heading the parks division, Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran, oversaw the rollout of the new Star Wars-themed areas of Disney’s amusement parks.
Chapek will be the seventh CEO in the Walt Disney Company’s history, following Roy Disney, Donn Tatum, Card Walker, Ron W. Miller, Michael Eisner, and Bob Iger, so Chapek’s appointment makes “Bob” the most popular name for chief executive officers of the company’s various incarnations over the years. It is not, however, the most popular name among the current executive leadership, which now consists of three Alans, two Bobs, one Brent, one Christine, one Kevin, one James, one Jayne, one Jonathan, one Peter, one Lowell, and one Zenia. Disney shares fell more than 2% in after-hours trading following the announcement, after a 3.6% drop during normal business hours as part of the ongoing coronavirus sell-off.