In February, Bob Iger stepped down as The Walt Disney Company’s CEO, nearly two years ahead of schedule. His legacy seemed secure: in his 15-year tenure, he had steered the company to undisputed box office domination, while successfully overseeing its pivot to streaming. But the suddenness of his departure left an odd aftertaste.
Since then, things have only got stranger in Burbank. A new profile by The New York Times’s Ben Smith claims that Iger has quietly taken back the reins. The ostensible reason is the coronavirus, which has hit Disney hard. Its theme parks, cruise ships, and stores have shut; its theatrical releases have been delayed; its sports channel ESPN has no sports to show. The article implies that Iger, with all his experience, is better placed to steer the company through the crisis than his nominal successor as CEO, Bob Chapek.
Smith’s article features interviews with Iger and several industry insiders, yet it ends up raising more questions than it answers. There hasn’t been this much palace intrigue at the Disney Company since Roy E. Disney’s “Save Disney” campaign in the mid-2000s. Here are six takeaways from the piece: