Bob Iger announced on Tuesday that he’s stepping down as Disney’s CEO and will be succeeded by Bob Chapek, effective immediately. Iger will remain on at Disney as executive chairman through 2021.
Iger told CNBC on Tuesday that the company’s succession plan is designed to ensure a smooth transition, even though the sudden change seems to be contrary to Disney’s Wall Street narrative. Chapek has experience with parks, but Disney has been pushing a narrative focused on its Disney+ streaming video service.
“We’re not concerned at all about creating any confusion,” Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin.
Bob Chapek most recently served as chairman of Disney parks, experiences and product. Those divisions were combined in 2018. He previously led Disney’s home entertainment business.
“It’s certainly a privilege to have Bob still available and there for guidance,” Chapek told CNBC.
Iger has pushed back his retirement several times, though Tuesday’s announcement came as a surprise. He was expected to retire at the end of 2021.
Iger said the move will allow him to focus on creative endeavors, while Chapek takes control of Disney’s day-to-day business. Chapek will continue to report to Iger and will be appointed to the board of directors at a later date.
Iger has been instrumental in making Disney a media powerhouse through its large-name acquisitions and content plays. He launched Disney+ in November, ushered through Disney’s $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business and added Star Wars and Marvel movies through its acquisitions of Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment.
Chapek said, as CEO, he plans to continue work on the “strategic pillars” established by Iger, especially Disney’s direct-to-consumer initiatives, “but at the same time look around the corner at what’s going on in the marketplace that would necessitate a fresh look at those things.”
“Right now the course that Bob has laid is one that we fully intend to follow and I think will pay dividends to shareholders for years to come,” Chapek said.
– CNBC’s Lauren Feiner contributed to this report.