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Disney Chief Bob Iger Plans to Step Down

Robert Iger

Bob Iger, we hardly knew ye. Last Friday, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that he will step down as chief executive in 2015. Prior to that, Iger will add the title of executive chairman in March 2012, and will remain in that role until June 2016, at which time he will retire from the company at the age of 65. The announcement of his impending departure was a surprise to the business world, but according to the Wall Street Journal‘s analysis, the decision to also make him executive chairman “was a sign the board is eager to lock Mr. Iger in for a significant period of time, while also assuring an orderly transition when he departs.”

The paper reports that the top two candidates to replace him in 2015 are Thomas Staggs, who used to be the company’s chief financial officer and now runs the theme park division, and Jay Rasulo, who used to run the theme park division and currently is the company’s chief financial officer. As for Iger, the WSJ suggests that he has “often privately expressed interest in government and politics,” but that “politics isn’t the only option Mr. Iger is considering.”

  • 2011 Senior Citizen

    Well, I was surprised up until it listed how old he’ll be by 2016. That I can understand, cause…….. he’s up there.

    The two likely replacements…. switched jobs?

    • amid

      Yes, Skaggs and Rasulo swapped jobs in 2009. The article I linked to above says that the job swap “was intended to broaden both executives’ experience and to vet them for strengths and weaknesses.”

  • Jorge Garrido

    Financials and Theme Parks? Really?

    • Matt

      My sentiments exactly. Why does it even have to be one of the suits? Why can’t someone with a creative mind like John Lasseter succeed Iger as CEO? Why can’t we have someone who’s at least as Disney-esque as pre-mid-90’s Michael Eisner was? Roy Disney Jr. needs to be alive again right about….now.

      • Jim

        To be fair, theme parks are creative… doesn’t mean the suit has any creative experience whatsoever but the parks themselves are very creative and have lots of talented people designing them.

      • I’ll take a stab at it.

        The reason a creative guy isn’t in charge is that being creative type isn’t a necessity for the position.

        The Walt Disney Company is a huge conglomerate made up of lots of different bits and pieces. The CEO is essentially in charge of all of them, not just the ones that produce the animation. That’s what the head of the Studios and Animation Features, TVA, etc. jobs are.

        As such, in order to head a company that is a component of the Dow Jones (30 largest corporations on the NYSE) you pretty much have to have a fairly extensive business background, with credentials.

        Is it ideal? No, it’s not. People seem to forget that it’s animation that is the engine in the entire operation and without it, the company would wither. A creative person has to run that aspect of things, he just doesn’t have to be the CEO.

        It’s important to remember that as in charge of things as he was, Walt was not officially the CEO. That job fell to Roy, and he was very much a businessman in the same way Bob Iger is.

      • Funkybat

        Very good points, Charles. As much as I would love to see artists running the show (at Disney and elsewhere) what the Disney corporation has become today is light-years beyond even what it was when Walt was nearing the end.

        In addition to pretty much everything Disney was involved in in 1966, there are multiple TV networks, online entities, a much larger live-action film production division, not to mention a much larger catalog of “intellectual property” to be tended to. Of course, most of that is handled by other suits, lawyers, etc. but overseeing it all calls for more than an exceptional storyteller, entertainer and visionary.

        I would hope that John Lasseter will continue to fulfill the “storyteller/entertainer/visionary” role. Meanwhile, someone who “gets” creative people and the creative process, but also understands the multinational media business would take the ultimate helm.

      • This might be naive to say but I think that having a creative person might not be a necessary prerequisite for a CEO —- but it wouldn’t hurt either.

        With a CEO whose only concern is numbers and charts, I believe you a bound to get a company that produces products or provides services that lack a certain “humanity”.

        Companies are in business to make money, but I feel that businesses are in a position to either be a contributor or be a detriment to the culture of the people they are serving.

        A Bob Iger-type CEO might be much like what Roy Disney was, but who is that balancing power with that creative and innovative outlook to take things beyond just making a profit?

      • “It’s important to remember that as in charge of things as he was, Walt was not officially the CEO. That job fell to Roy, and he was very much a businessman in the same way Bob Iger is. ”

        The same thing happened in Pixar (before the Disney merger)… Lasseter was never the CEO, Steve Jobs was and he never interfered with the “creative process” (my guess is that he knew squat about the animation process, so he prefered to leave that in more capable hands).

  • eeteed

    he must have heard of the competition coming from david stainton.

  • Skeptical

    It will be interesting to see the Disney politics as we get closer to 2015. With everyone knowing Iger is a lame duck, his wishes will begin to carry less and less weight, and the jockeying below him will become intense and possibly ugly. Protracted executive transitions often produce the opposite of the stability that the board is looking for.

  • BP

    Hm. Someone from the theme parks.

    It’d be interesting if either Staggs or Rasulo decided, “Hey, let’s release Song of the South”, and add more publicity to SPlash Mountain.

    Or not.

    What kind of bothers me, really isn’t the theme park part, but rather the “financial advisor” part. So basically, we’ll just be getting another CEO who’s only interest is the bottom dollar.

    • Brian

      Yeah, but I’m reminded of an interview Frank Zappa once gave. He bemoaned the loss of the old days in music, when the guys in charge didn’t know a THING about music, and freely admitted it, and let “the crazy kids” do what they wanted in the studios. During that era, rock & roll was born.

      Then those old suits all retired, and were succeeded by young hipsters who thought they knew what “the kids” wanted and got their hands dirty in production, A&R, etc. And they ruined music.

      This is of course a paraphrase of what Zappa said, but it shows that maybe having a numbers guy in charge who KNOWS he’s not creative isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    • Funkybat

      We can always hope that “Song of the South” gets released by Iger toward the end of his term, that way if anyone makes a fuss about “how could Disney *do* that?!” they can lay the blame on the CEO who already has one foot out the door…

      Frankly, I think it is far past time to give SotS a proper DVD/Blu-Ray release. Add the (ad infinitum) discussed disclaimers and cultural context commentaries by prominent African Americans (who have already said they were willing) and let it stand as a piece of animation history, warts and all.

  • I wonder how much Steve Jobs passing has diminished Iger’s enthusiasm about Disney’s foreseeable prospects. Our economy is stagnant if not receding further; Jobs-was probably the most visionary figure surrounding Disney; Iger is at retirement age; so stepping down is probably the smartest thing for him to do at this point. He should be proud about making good choices while he was in command. But, stepping down paints a grim picture for the future. What is going to happen when Pixar’s brain trust decides they are done? Who is going to succeed them in this brave new world?

  • Scarabim

    “Good choices”? Buying Marvel, which doesn’t even give Disney access to the Marvel characters that actually make money? Devoting huge amounts of cash to build a mini-land in a Disney park based on the non-Disney movie “Avatar” as a counter to Harry Potter? (That was such a dumb decision I’m beginning to wonder if creeping senility is the REAL reason Disney’s pushing him out).

    • You think Acquiring the Avatar and Marvel franchises was a mistake? I don’t. It’s diversification-or a hedge for a brand that has been diluted. In the long run they will pay off. In the short term…nothing good is going to happen in the short term.

  • dbenson

    There’s something to be said for a planned exit; great new ideas calcify into braindead companythink when you’re not looking. Even in Walt Disney’s lifetime, the studio’s film product — live action as well as animated — tended to look more backwards than forward as the founder’s interests (and time) were directed elsewhere.

    If Eisner bowed out a bit earlier — an option muddied by the Katzenberg and Ovitz fiascos — he’d be the beloved elder statesman instead of the Ultimate Suit. The methods and personality so useful in turning around a struggling company became liabilities in leading an insanely huge empire.

    Iger’s original mandate was to rebuild bridges that had collapsed, starting with Pixar. He’s also done some forward-looking stuff that may or may not pay off. If he can leave the place in better shape and resist the temptation to hang around and play emperor, more power to him.

  • Steven M.

    And the Baton of Crap will be passed on…..

    Though I really hope that Iger’s replacment wil be alittle more wiser.

  • Trevor

    Feel free to show me where I’m wrong, but Iger seems to be a friend of the animation industry. Rebuilding a relationship with Pixar and giving them more creative control over all of Disney’s creative projects, overseeing the end of cheap direct to video sequels in favor of original direct to video content featuring established franchises, allowing the rebuilding of a hand drawn feature division, allowing much of disney animaiton’s technology to be shared with the general public, bringing more quality television animation to the disney channel with shows like phineas and ferb.

    • And buying Oswald back from Universal.

  • Toonio

    Iger being an Eisner protege, kept the good things Eisner had and disposed of the bad things. Yes, the guy is not perfect but he kept Disney stock from crashing and somehow brought back Disney’s core business: ANIMATION (Principally those shorts the projected before some Disney features).

    The guy was humble enough to admit Disney’s old characters had their time, and PIXAR was indeed the new (and much needed) generation.

    At last one CEO that understands that a company is indeed much bigger than him/herself.

  • Scarabim

    “Disney’s old characters had their time”???

    Yeah. Guess that’s why nobody buys Mickey Mouse t-shirts.


  • SKent.

    Oh jeez, he’s quitting to go into politics? Yikes.

  • I don’t know about Rasulo. He was one of the geniuses behind the creation of Disney’s California Adventure park, before they had to spend a billion dollars to fix that mess. I generally read theme park news on other Disney sites, and for the most part he’s not a terribly popular guy, known for taking the cheap route on new attractions and stuff. He doesn’t come off to me as a guy who has Disney’s best interests at heart.

  • Ken

    disney has lost its magic. since the Marvel deal, they are now just another corporation. and their animation unit is as weak as it ever was. And Lassiter failed to restore Disney animation.

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