Now, though, that confidence is gone. In a release put out by Disney on Sunday evening, chairman of the board Susan Arnold said:
We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period.
Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide–all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.
I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO. Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe—most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration. I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.
In returning to his former role, one of Iger’s primary tasks will be reversing the steep decline in Disney’s shares, which were trending towards their worst annual loss in decades. The returning CEO is walking into a bit of a hornets’ nest, with Disney reporting losses in direct-to-consumer streaming, a brutal outlook for the company’s linear channels, and a stunted growth forecast during its Q4 earnings call.
Shortly after that call, Disney shares tumbled to their lowest level in more than two years, closing at $86.75 per share. That was the lowest closing price for Disney shares since March 23, 2020. However, the Iger announcement has inspired a predictable market jump with company shares up 10% in pre-market trading on Monday, after falling more than 40% this year.
The market’s bullish response to Iger’s return is hardly surprising. During his 15 years as CEO, Iger spearheaded the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, increasing the company’s market capitalization five times over.
Below is Iger’s full memo to Disney employees:
Dear Fellow Employees and Cast Members,
It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer.
When I look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN, and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the phenomenal reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.
I know this company has asked so much of you during the past three years, and these times certainly remain quite challenging, but as you have heard me say before, I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty—our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible.
You will be hearing more from me and your leaders tomorrow and in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, allow me to express my deep gratitude for all that you do. Disney holds a special place in the hearts of people around the globe thanks to you, and your dedication to this company and its mission to bring joy to people through great storytelling is an inspiration to me every single day.