Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract

The Walt Disney Company announced it has extended CEO Bob Iger’s contract by two years, and he will continue to serve as Chief Executive Officer through December 31, 2026. (Well, assuming no further extensions or abrupt resignations, neither of which are a given based on his past precedent!) This post shares the announcement followed by our commentary and background context for the Iger extension.

Here’s the press release from the Walt Disney Company:

In voting unanimously to extend Iger’s contract by two years, the independent members of the Board of Directors noted that Iger’s extension provides continuity of leadership during the company’s ongoing transformation, and allows more time to execute a transition plan for CEO succession, which remains a priority for the Board.

“Time and again, Bob has shown an unparalleled ability to successfully transform Disney to drive future growth and financial returns, earning him a reputation as one of the world’s best CEOs,” said Mark G. Parker, Chairman, The Walt Disney Company. “Bob has once again set Disney on the right strategic path for ongoing value creation, and to ensure the successful completion of this transformation while also allowing ample time to position a new CEO for long-term success, the Board determined it is in the best interest of shareholders to extend his tenure, and he has agreed to our request to remain Chief Executive Officer through the end of 2026.”

“Since my return to Disney just seven months ago, I’ve examined virtually every facet of our businesses to fully understand the tremendous opportunities before us, as well as the challenges we’ve been facing from the broader economic environment and the tectonic shifts in our industry. On my first day back, we began making important and sometimes difficult decisions to address some existing structural and efficiency issues, and despite the challenges, I believe Disney’s long-term future is incredibly bright,” said Iger.

“But there is more to accomplish before this transformative work is complete, and because I want to ensure Disney is strongly positioned when my successor takes the helm, I have agreed to the Board’s request to remain CEO for an additional two years. The importance of the succession process cannot be overstated, and as the Board continues to evaluate a highly qualified slate of internal and external candidates, I remain intensely focused on a successful transition.”

Iger returned to the company in November of 2022 after serving as CEO and Chairman from 2005 to 2020, and then as Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board through 2021. Since returning as CEO, he has led a significant, enterprise-wide transformation to restore creativity to the center of the company and position Disney’s streaming business for sustained growth and profitability. Throughout his time as the company’s chief executive, Iger’s strategic vision has focused on three fundamental pillars: generating the best creative content possible; fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology; and expanding into new markets across the globe.

Widely recognized as one of the world’s most consequential business leaders, Iger has built on Disney’s rich history of unforgettable storytelling with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012), and 21st Century Fox (2019); the landmark opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort; and the release of a number of record-setting films, including Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, Disney’s Frozen and Frozen 2, and Marvel’s groundbreaking Black Panther. Always one to embrace new technology, Iger made Disney an industry leader through its creative content offerings across multiple new platforms, including the highly successful launch of the Disney+ streaming service in November 2019.

Iger first became Chief Executive Officer of Disney in October 2005 and was elected Chairman in 2012. From 2000-2005, he served as Disney’s President and Chief Operating Officer. Iger officially joined the Disney senior management team in 1996 as Chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group, and in 1999 was given the additional responsibility of President, Walt Disney International. He began his career at ABC in 1974.

Iger was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2020, and the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2022, he was recognized as an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the UK/US relations. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which has sold more than a million copies since its publication in 2019. He is a graduate of Ithaca College.

File this one under Least Surprising News Ever. What’s next on the summer rerun schedule, news of (yet another) Main Street Electrical Parade “farewell” run?! Although Iger repeatedly stated that he has “no intention” of staying longer than 2 years as CEO through 2024, Iger also previously stated that he had “no intention” of returning to the Walt Disney Company after Bob Chapek took the helm.

And we all saw how that turned out, culminating in last Christmas season’s #1 smash sensation: Disney’s Bob Swap. A movie that simultaneously does not exist, but also has outperformed 50% of Disney’s recent releases at the global box office. Impressive feat, to be sure!

Prior to this, Iger extended his tenure as CEO after planning to retire on four different occasions between 2013 and 2017. He then retired without warning, and subsequently returned by surprise. Well, surprise isn’t really the right word. Countless commentators predicted his return, including this blog.

Even those who failed to call the Bob Swap probably saw today’s announcement coming a mile away. This news is about as surprising as an M. Night Shyamalan movie having a twist ending, or Walt Disney World raising prices. Pretty much everyone knew Iger would extend again, even as he denied it.

By and large, the response among Walt Disney World fans was positive when Bob Iger returned last November. It’s difficult to quantity, but I’d peg the “approval rating” of that move at around 85% or 90%.

In large part, that was because the reign of Bob Chapek was so terrible, and literally anyone would’ve been deemed an improvement. As we wrote at the time, Bob Chapek Did Not “Get” Disney, and he had an open animosity towards fans. Bob Iger’s homecoming was also viewed positively because he was still largely beloved, and his tenure–although having its share of ups and downs–was a tremendous time of growth for Disney.

Well, the honeymoon is over. Sentiment has already shifted about Bob Iger. Without reading any hot takes or fan feedback, I’m guessing that the responses to this news will be much more mixed–probably about 50/50. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Iger’s approval rating is slightly underwater.

In large part, this will be due to the ongoing culture wars, and Iger now being the face of the DeSantis vs. Disney feud in Florida. It’s not just that, though. Plenty of fans are disappointed that Iger has not done enough to steady the ship or right past wrongs by Chapek. Personally, I think expectations are a little unrealistic on both fronts given what Iger inherited. He’s playing the cards he was dealt (…which he himself kinda dealt to Chapek).

Regardless, my perspective on this isn’t really positive or negative, but instead that Bob Iger’s contract extension is necessary. I am ready for the Walt Disney Company to open a new chapter, but also have a tremendous amount of respect for what Iger has accomplished. I don’t think he’s infallible; there have been unforced errors, including his own succession planning (or lack thereof). So he’s partly cleaning up his own past missteps.

I also recognize that the Walt Disney Company is at an inflection point, that it’s a time of transition, and there’s tremendous turmoil in the legacy media space. Given the circumstances, there’s no one who I feel is more equipped to navigate these rough waters than Bob Iger, and I suspect it’ll take until 2025 for Disney to emerge from the storm.

This extension provides Iger the chance to cement his legacy; it also gives his successor enough runway for a clean break, and not having to be tarnished by the tough decisions that’ll be made now and in the next 18 months. It seems win-win to me.

So I guess the question I have for those who are disappointed about Disney extending Bob Iger’s contrast is, what *realistic* outcome would you have preferred here?

Disney still has to “deal with” both Hulu and ESPN; the decline of linear as cable cord-cutting accelerates and ad revenue dries up; attempting to make streaming services profitable; paying down debt as a result of the 20th Century Fox acquisition; and that’s just a partial list of the huge headwinds facing Disney!

Who inside or outside the Walt Disney Company is actually equipped to jump into the CEO seat and handle all of that? If you think this is an easy task…just look at all of the other legacy media companies and how poorly they are dealing with a subset of these problems. Who would you rather have at the helm, David Zaslav?!?

Previously, CFO Christine McCarthy’s name appeared atop the list of five talked-about candidates for the future CEO job. She’s now gone. That list also is/was rumored to have included Dana Walden, Disney’s television chief, and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman. Previous reporting suggests that the board doesn’t view either candidate as “quite ready” for the role.

However, the board supposedly does believe that former Disney executives Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer are ready, as they were also considered to replace Chapek as CEO before Iger was brought back on board. In case you’re unfamiliar with the names, these are two previous candidates to replace Iger who left Disney when it became clear they’d be passed over for CEO.

These two are now running the Candle Media startup together. We had hoped–and continue to hope–that Disney would/will acquire Candle Media. So far, that has not happened, and there are no rumors to suggest it’s even a possibility. So both of them are out as near-term CEO/COO/President candidates.

Ultimately, I would like to have someone from Parks & Resorts serve as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Right now, that would be Josh D’Amaro. This blog has not been shy in its favorable stance towards D’Amaro. Some have suggested that he gets a “free pass” on bad decisions because he’s handsome and smoother than Chapek was; that may be true to an extent, but we’re not blinded by his beauty.

We have heard enough about D’Amaro from past colleagues and Cast Members to give D’Amaro the benefit of the doubt. Everything suggests that he’s the real deal, someone who truly “gets” Walt Disney World and Disneyland, cares about Cast Members and the guest experience, and would advocate for theme parks.

With that said, there’s also the reality that D’Amaro has next to no accomplishments under his belt. Aside from a handful of favorable moves to improve guest satisfaction at the beginning of year (and more announced for 2024), there’s nothing you can point to that’s attributable to D’Amaro. He’s very well liked and seems to have a solid grasp of the parks, but he does not have any major achievements to speak of. That’s a problem for a CEO candidate.

It’s also a problem that, as of right now, Parks & Resorts is not the focus of the Walt Disney Company. If Bob Iger and the board were to start grooming a CEO successor today, it would necessarily have to be someone on the media side of the business–perhaps Dana Walden. I don’t know anything about her so cannot speak to her qualifications, but that’s not really the point.

I want to see someone–anyone–come from the Parks & Resorts side of the business. I want that to be the company’s focus. That’s my personal bias. It would be nice to have a CEO who came up through the parks and understands their importance to the company’s creative legacy–and not just as the goose(s) that lay golden eggs.

There is absolutely no chance that the new CEO would have a theme parks pedigree if named today. It would have to be someone with experience on the media side, able to handle potential M&A, cost-cutting, and other unpleasant tasks required as streaming attempts to attain profitability and other tumult in the legacy media space is dealt with. Josh D’Amaro has zero expertise with any of that. Nobody at Parks & Resorts does.

However, the landscape will (hopefully!) be very different by December 2026. By that point, Disney+ will have been profitable for at least a year (knock on wood), Hulu will have been bought or sold, ESPN will have been figured out, and more of the debt load will (hopefully) be reduced. Bob Iger will (hopefully) have navigated the Walt Disney Company through those rough waters, and media will be “figured out.”

With that in the rearview mirror, the company will have (also hopefully) pivoted back towards parks, finally announcing the first phase of the $17 billion investment at Walt Disney World and expansion as part of DisneylandForward in California. Standing on the precipice of another “Disney Decade” for the theme parks, it will make complete sense to promote someone to the CEO role from that side of the business.

Of course, all of this is highly wishful thinking that assumes a lot of best case scenarios…but it’s still more realistic than ending Bob Iger’s run in 2024, bringing in a new CEO in a trial by fire kind of situation, and simply hoping everything will work itself out. We’ve already seen that movie once not that long ago–it was called “The Terrible Reign of Bob Chapek.” I don’t know if you saw that one, but (spoiler alert) it did not go well.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think about Disney extending CEO Bob Iger’s contract through 2026? Are you happy, disappointed, or indifferent towards the news? Recognize this as a ‘necessary’ move even if you’re not wild about it? Who do you think will be CEO of the Walt Disney Company on January 1, 2027? Will it be Bob Iger (still), Christine McCarthy (somehow), Tom Staggs, Kevin Mayer, Josh D’Amaro, or none of the above? Who should it be? Thoughts on anything else discussed here? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the Walt Disney Company’s future? Think things will get better in 2024-2025? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

19 Responses to “Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract”
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