With three years left on his current contract, Disney CEO past and present Bob Iger is feeling good about his successor, whoever that eventually turns out to be.
“I’m confident we’re going to find a successor to me in due time and in the right time,” Iger told CNBC today after Disney’s latest quarterly earnings report was released. “I think the commitment of the board the attention to the process is all very very healthy.”
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Having returned to the Mouse House in November 2022 after the chaotic rule of his previously handpicked successor Bob Chapek, Iger added Wednesday that the succession committee meets regularly and finding the next CEO is probably the the board’s number one priority.”
Iger was quick to address the succession question in a very non-Logan Roy sort of way, but when it came to his latest squirmish with Elon Musk, the CEO dodged the question from CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. Having been lipped off by Musk at close proximity late last year for pausing Disney ads on X/Twitter after the erratic Musk retweeted a distinctly antisemitic post, Iger may wish to avoid another confrontation.
However, with Musk funding fired The Mandalorian actress Gina Carano’s recent discrimination suit against Disney and flipping off the company on social media earlier today, there may not be much longer Iger can stay silent on the growing brouhaha.
Hoping to face down the moves of activist investor Nelson Peltz and former CFO Jay Rasulo to get on the Disney board as the company struggles to regain stock value, Iger today could not stay silent on the company’s succession situation.
While grumbles about the succession process at Disney can be heard all over town, the official arrival this week of former Morgan Stanley CEO and chairman James Gorman to the board is widely seen as a serious shift. “Gorman could be the one to turn this around, if he is given the latitude he expects,” an industry insider tells Deadline of the seasoned exec. “Iger respects him, he’ll listen to him.”
On the subject of Peltz’s second stab at a seat on the Disney board, Iger was even more dismissive Wednesday than he has been before. “The last thing that we need right now is to be distracted in terms of our time, our energy by an activist or activists that frankly, have a completely different agenda, and don’t understand our company, its assets, even the essence of the Disney brand,” he said of Peltz, Rasulo and to some extent their pal and former Marvel boss Ike Perlmutter. I have not spoken to Mr. Peltz,” Iger added when pressed by Boorstin. “I have no plans to speak to him, I will leave it at that.”
Unless Peltz and Pelmutter are suddenly appeased by today flurry of announcement and healthy earnings report, the throw down for board perches is expected to take place at Disney’s upcoming virtual 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders.
Going into that gathering, one can deny the efforts to find a successor to Iger during his first CEO regime from 2005 to 2020 proved a mess. Top contenders like Ton Staggs, who is now back with Kevin Meyers as a consultant, were raised up to giddy heights at the company and then side-lined or dropped. When Chapek was eventually given the job just before the pandemic hit he was widely viewed as a compromised selection.
Even now a number of big players in town wonder if the 72-year-old Iger will seek another contract extension to stay in the gig. Originally back as top mouse for just two years when he returned in late 2022, Iger’s contract was given another two years by the board in July 2023.
Right now, Iger is set to hand over the reins and exit at the end of 2026 – maybe.
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