Bob Iger Steps Down as CEO of Disney, Named Executive Chairman Through 2021

Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek assumes CEO role immediately

Bob Iger is transitioning to Disney executive chairman immediately, with Bob Chapek stepping in as CEO.
Bob Iger is transitioning to Disney executive chairman immediately, with Bob Chapek stepping in as CEO. Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

Longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger will step down from the helm of the media and entertainment giant but will remain at the company as executive chairman through the end of 2021, the company said today. Bob Chapek, who most recently served as the chairman of Disney Parks, experiences, and products, will take over as CEO, effective immediately.

Iger has been at Disney for two decades and has served as CEO since 2005, where he led the company through a period of expansive growth, especially in its media divisions. Under his leadership, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, bringing all of the film and television studio’s assets under the Disney umbrella, and bought the Star Wars, Lucasfilm and Marvel franchises, all of which have become extraordinarily lucrative assets for the company.

He has also shepherded the company’s entrance into streaming with the launch of the subscription service Disney+, which in three months attracted more than 28 million subscribers, the company said last month.

In Iger’s new role, he will direct Disney’s creative endeavors and lead the Disney board through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021. Chapek will report to Iger in the new company structure.

“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the company’s creative endeavors.”

Chapek is also a longtime Disney executive who has been with the company since 1993. He has been heading up the company’s parks, experiences and products division since 2018, and in various previous roles at the company oversaw Disney’s parks, resorts and cruise arms, as well as its enormous consumer products operations.

“Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team,” Chapek said in a statement. “I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”

Chapek, who will become the seventh CEO in Disney’s history, was unanimously selected by Disney’s board of directors, said Susan Arnold, the board’s independent lead director.

In a call with investors Tuesday, Iger said that the time was right for him to step down as CEO, and that he was “thrilled” that Chapek would be taking over so Iger could focus more closely on spending time with Disney’s creative endeavors.

“I am enormously proud of all that we have accomplished creatively, financially and strategically,” Iger said. “With these key endeavors underway, I believe it’s the right time to transition to a new CEO … the need was now to make this change.”

Chapek told investors he planned to continue implementing Iger’s plans as he moved into the role of CEO. While he has not worked on Disney’s media side in the past, Chapek said his experience in parks and experiences and consumer products gave him experience that would benefit Disney’s media and entertainment side.

“Everything in my career has been a consumer-oriented business,” Chapek said. “The idea that now I’ll be able to take that background in experience and now employ it to a direct-to-consumer business, it feels like it’s well within my wheelhouse.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.