Christine McCarthy Could Be The First Woman To Become Disney CEO
According to several new reports, Disney chief financial officer Christine McCarthy, a 22-year veteran of the company, is among the top candidates to replace CEO Bob Iger at the end of his two-year term, which would make her the first female CEO in company history.
It’s only been a few weeks since Iger returned to the CEO position he previously held for 15 years, replacing his former successor Bob Chapek who was removed from the post after a series of high-profile blunders and a nightmare Q4 earnings report.
Multiple reports since then have indicated that McCarthy was one of the more outspoken voices asking questions about Chapek’s competence in the CEO role. It has been reported that in mid-November, McCarthy approached Disney board chair Susan Arnold and threatened to leave the company if Chapek wasn’t let go immediately. Many predicted that Chapek was on borrowed time anyway, but McCarthy’s decision to go around her CEO was an unprecedented move and surely played a role in his dismissal.
A strong candidate to take the reins at Disney under any circumstances, McCarthy’s candidacy is certainly boosted by the fact that the company’s executive ranks have thinned in recent years. Chief operating officer Kevin Staggs and streaming boss Kevin Mayer left Disney in 2016 to launch Candle Media. Either would have proven strong candidates to replace Iger if they were still at the company. Another contender for the top job, Jay Rasulo, was replaced as CFO in 2015 by McCarthy herself.
Another credit on McCarthy’s impressive resume is the consensus regarding her role in keeping Disney above water during the pandemic. Despite its reliance on theme parks and theatrical income, Disney fared better than many might have expected during the worst of the Covid-19 shutdowns, and analysts and industry insiders alike give McCarthy a great deal of the credit for that resilience.
“She really shined when the pandemic hit,” one analyst told Deadline. “She did exactly what the CFO should do. She lined up enough cash for one to two years of no revenue. She put together a huge bundle of cash at reasonable rates very quickly to protect the company.”
McCarthy also very clearly has the trust of her boss. So much so, that one of Iger’s first moves was to put McCarthy, and a small group of fellow executives, in charge of creating a “new structure” that will put decision-making back in the hands of Disney’s creative teams and rationalize costs.
One factor that could work against McCarthy is time. At 67 years old, she’s two years older now than Iger was when he was first scheduled to retire back in 2016. And, following the back-and-forth nature of the CEO role at Disney in recent years, the company might prefer someone who is positioned for a long stay.
One thing is sure, Disney will want to decide soon. Iger’s term is only two years, and the company will want to have a plan in place sooner rather than later for when he finally leaves for good.