Disney has fired its CEO Bob Chapek and will replace him with his predecessor, former CEO Bob Iger, the company said in a shocking announcement on Sunday.
“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board for Disney, said in a statement. “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.”
Iger has agreed to serve as CEO for two years with “a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to lead the Company at the completion of his term,” Disney said.
The announcement came as a surprise given Chapek renewed his contract in July after the company’s board of directors unanimously voted to extend the contract for another three years.
Iger, meanwhile, served as executive chairman at Disney after stepping down as CEO in 2020, then ultimately left the company after 50 years last year.
“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger said in a statement Sunday. “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.”
Iger said he is “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.”
During Chapek’s tenure the company became embroiled in a fight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after it chose to advocate against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibits teaching gender ideology and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
Disney became an outspoken critic of the measure, going so far as to say its “goal as a company” is having the bill “repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”
In return, Florida stripped Disney of its “independent special district” status, with DeSantis warning that if the company chose to use its “economic might to attack the parents of my state,” he would treat it as a “provocation” and “fight back.”
After Chapek came out against the bill, Disney employees expressed concern that “overtly gay affection” had been blocked from Disney content in the past. Pixar studios reportedly restored a same-sex kiss in the film Lightyear after staff backlash to the alleged censorship of the “overtly gay” content, the Daily Caller reported in April.
Chapek vowed to assemble a content task force to become a “force for good” for the LGBTQ movement.
In April, a poll found more than 68 percent of general-election voters said they are less likely to do business with Disney after reports that it plans to include sexual ideology in new content for children.
At the time an executive producer admitted to advancing a “not-at-all-secret gay agenda” to insert queerness into children’s animation during a Disney staff meeting on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation.
“Our leadership over there has been so welcoming to my, like, not-at-all-secret gay agenda,” said Latoya Raveneau, an executive producer for Disney Television in a video obtained by journalist Christopher Rufo. “I was just, wherever I could, just basically adding queerness. . . . No one would stop me and no one was trying to stop me.”
Disney stock is down 40 percent this year. Shares jumped more than 8 percent in premarket trading on Monday on the announcement of Iger’s return.
Iger previously spent 15 years as CEO and helped the company acquire Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and most of 21st Century Fox. He also launched Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, in 2019.