CEO Bob Chapek, 63, hasn’t had the best start to life as boss of The Walt Disney Company, but he did just get a new contract extension that will see him stay put for the next three years.
What are the details of the extension? According to contract details disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the extension begins on July 1 and runs for three years. The new deal also grants Chapek long-term stock awards of at least $20 million annually. The majority of the terms in his current contract remain unchanged however, including his annual base salary of $2.5 million.
How did Chapek get the job in the first place? Chapek was controversially promoted to replace outgoing CEO Bob Iger in February of 2020. Prior to becoming CEO, Chapek put in time as head of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products; head of Disney Consumer Products; and served as president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios as well as president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. His appointment as Iger’s replacement came as a surprise at the time, as he was not on many outsiders’ radars and Iger still had two years left on his contract. It has since been rumored by insiders that Iger picked Chapek as his replacement because he saw in Chapek a less charismatic peer that would not threaten his own legacy.
Chapek as CEO: The Good. It’s been a rocky couple years since Chapek took the reins, but there have been extenuating circumstances. His arrival came just weeks before the company’s theme parks and most of its production work were shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic, a development which could have been financially devastating. However, many credit the way Chapek integrated Disney+ into the global streaming ecosystem for the company’s buoyancy during this time of adversity. His no-nonsense approach and heavy reliance on popular IPs helped the platform massively overshoot subscriber growth projections. Without that streaming success, Disney would have likely faced a far more difficult time during the pandemic.
Chapek as CEO: The Bad. Chapek’s biggest blunder so far, or at least the most public, was his response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill (more popularly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law). Employees from nearly all levels of Disney’s hierarchy turned on Chapek when he initially tried to avoid addressing the situation at all. Eventually though, Chapek caved and paused all political donations in the state of Florida, issuing a mild apology to anyone who felt let down by his previous inactivity. Earlier in his tenure the executive also got dragged into a very public PR battle about pay with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson. Most recently, controversy was stirred when Chapek fired the company’s top tv content executive Peter Rice, viewed by many as a potential Chapek replacement if the CEO were to be unseated for any reason.
Chapek as CEO: The Ugly. In speaking out against the Florida bill, Chapek kickstarted a feud with the state’s governor Ron DeSantis, who embarked on a weeks-long tirade against Chapek, Disney, and animation at large. Santis subsequently drafted a bill to have Disney’s self-governing status in Florida, protected since 1967, removed. More concerning for the long term, Republicans have turned Disney into a political foil, something Iger managed to avoid with his slick statesman-like approach to running the company.
What they’re saying.
Leading this great company is the honor of a lifetime, and I am grateful to the board for their support. I started at Disney almost 30 years ago, and today have the privilege of leading one of the world’s greatest, most dynamic companies, bringing joy to millions around the world. I am thrilled to work alongside the incredible storytellers, employees, and cast members who make magic every day.
Susan Arnold, chairman of the board:
Disney was dealt a tough hand by the pandemic, yet with Bob at the helm, our businesses—from parks to streaming—not only weathered the storm, but emerged in a position of strength. In this important time of growth and transformation, the board is committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob’s leadership is key to achieving that goal. Bob is the right leader at the right time for The Walt Disney Company, and the board has full confidence in him and his leadership team.