““I was disappointed in what I was seeing while I was out. I was not the only one who had concerns about [Bob] Chapek. So was the board.””
That’s Bob Iger, who said Wednesday morning that he wasn’t planning to come back as Walt Disney Co.’s chief executive — a post he held for more than a decade — when former company chairman Susan Arnold reached out to him a year ago.
“I was not seeking to return at all,” Iger said at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit in New York.
“I was disappointed in what I was seeing while I was out,” Iger said of his predecessor, Bob Chapek. “I was not the only one who had concerns about Chapek. So was the board.”
dismissed Chapek late last year as it struggled with slackening subscriber growth of Disney+, its streaming service; lackluster park attendance; widening operating costs; and generally poor morale.
“Disney is a large, very complex company in the public eye,” Iger said of the task of reviving the Magic Kingdom. “I spent a year fixing the company, some brought by my predecessor.”
Iger has imposed fiscal restraint at Disney, with more than $5.5 billion in cost cuts, a significant price-hike for streaming subscriptions and a crackdown on account sharing. Disney is planning to spend $60 billion on its parks and cruises globally over the next decade. He even floated the idea of selling assets, which he has since walked back.
“I was saying to Wall Street that our heads were not in the sand about business challenges,” Iger said. But, he emphatically said Wednesday, assets such as ABC are not for sale. “We are constantly evaluating the value of our assets,” he said.
Since he retook the reins of the media giant a year ago, Iger admitted Tuesday at a separate town hall meeting that the turnaround project was harder than he expected, and he walked back comments he would entertain the idea of selling major assets.
“I knew that there were a myriad of challenges…I must say there were many more of them than I expected,” Iger said in an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir at a companywide town hall at New York’s New Amsterdam Theatre. “I won’t say that it was easy, but I’ve never second-guessed the decision to come back, and being back still feels great.”
On Wednesday, he vowed that the company is on track to rebound. “I am not daunted by the job,” said Iger, whose contract was extended by the board by two years to 2026. He insisted he will retire then, and Disney’s board is taking the succession scheme seriously.
In response to the recent weak box-office results for Disney titles, including a disappointing opening Thanksgiving weekend for the animated feature “Wish,” Iger reiterated on Wednesday what he said earlier in the week: Disney is making too much. Quantity has deluded quality amid a changing industry landscape.
“The movie business is changing. Box office is about 75% of what it was pre-COVID,” Iger acknowledged. He said the encounter of viewing content from home on large, better screens is both convenient and less expensive, noting the $7 monthly fee for a Disney+ subscription.
“The bar is raised in what brings people to theaters,” he said, noting the success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” His No. 1 priority is raising the quality of Disney features, he said.
Additionally, Iger defended Disney’s decision to stop advertising on X following controversial comments from its owner, Elon Musk, on Israel. Association with Musk is not a positive one, according to Iger.