Bob Iger, one of the most powerful media executives in the world, is no longer the CEO of Disney.
But Iger isnt going away: In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Disney announced that Iger would step down as the companys leader but will be the companys executive chair, and will spend the next two years running the companys creative endeavors.
Disneys new CEO, former parks boss Bob Chapek, will report to Iger.
All of which means … insert shrug emoji here, for now. Iger had previously said he was going to leave his Disney job, but kept finding reasons to stick around. Now he says he has actually left his Disney job but is still sticking around.
Igers for-the-record logic, which he laid out in a quickly scheduled conference call with investors, was that after buying much of Rupert Murdochs 20th Century Fox, and then launching his companys big move into streaming last year, the major structural changes he wanted to make have been made.
Now, he said, he has decided that I should be spending as much time possible on the creative side of our business because that becomes the biggest priority.
Both the timing of Igers announcement and the logic of leaving so much time to transition in a replacement are a bit head-scratching. On the other hand, Igers initial ascent into the Disney CEO job was head-scratching, too: Back in 2005, when Iger took over from then-legendary Disney CEO Michael Eisner, conventional wisdom was that Iger, a former weatherman turned Disney suit, didnt have the creative muscles to steer Disney.
But from a corporate perspective, at the very least, Iger turned out to be just fine: He built the companys reach with three major acquisitions, buying Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar at prices that now seem like wild bargains (and, notably, he ended up not buying Vice Media, a deal that seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, and now would have looked like a disaster); he pushed Disneys film studio into a strategy that focused almost exclusively on giant tentpole movies like Star Wars sequels and endless Marvel iterations; and steered the company into direct competition with Netflix, with what appears to have been the very successful launch of its Disney+ streaming service.
Chapek, meanwhile, has a very low profile outside of Disney, but has long been tapped as a potential successor to Iger. Chapek has run the parks business a huge part of Disneys operations for the last five years; prior to that he ran its consumer products business, and before that ran Disneys film distribution businesses. In the last few years Kevin Mayer, Disneys strategy boss, who was put in charge of the Igers streaming plans, was also supposed to be a contender.
But on the call today, Iger said that Disneys board of directors has identified Bob quite some time ago as [his] likely successor; two current Disney executives told me the same thing today. Bob Chapek was the emergency guy in the board envelope for a while, one of them said.
What Disney is trying to tell Wall Street and, for consumers that care about the management of one of the worlds most important media companies is that they shouldnt expect anything to change soon: If you like Disneys Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar movies, youre going to keep getting those for years to come; if you like Disney+ and Disneys other streaming services, like Hulu, youll keep liking those, too.