Bob Iger Expressed Concerns About Chapek ‘Killing the Soul’ of Disney Regularly, Citing Park Price Increases and Treatment of Creatives

In the wake of the abrupt firing of Bob Chapek and the return of Bob Iger as Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, more details behind the decision are being revealed. It’s been long reported that Chapek was Iger’s biggest regret and that the two had fallen out. Ostensibly, Iger had a role in selecting Chapek as his successor — so what changed?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the first frisson began just as Chapek assumed power in early 2020. In the midst of the many complaints, Chapek has been lauded for steering the company through the unprecedented shutdowns in the early days of the pandemic. But WSJ claims that one of the largest decisions was actually made by Iger.

When companies across the world began shutting down operations, Chapek wanted to institute mass layoffs at Disney immediately to protect the bottom line. Iger, who was acting as Chairman of the Board, wanted to wait for the CARES act. The act offered protections to workers laid off from the shutdowns. In the end, Iger convinced the board to side with him.

“Mr. Chapek was infuriated, some of these people said, and complained to deputies he was being undermined from the minute he was promoted,” reports WSJ.

The situation didn’t improve even after Iger finally stepped away 11 months ago. He continued to “dominate lunch conversations … with talk of how he thinks Mr. Chapek has taken Disney in the wrong direction … Some associates said Mr. Iger would fixate on the topic so much that it became uncomfortable,” WSJ notes.

Iger worried over price increases at the theme parks and claimed to field calls from creatives upset with Chapek’s handling. “He’s killing the soul of the company,” Iger said.

He publically took a stand against Governor DeSantis’ “Parental Rights in Education” bill and was reportedly unhappy with Chapek’s lack of movement on the issue.

Iger has already begun dismantling some changes Chapek made to the structure of the company and has said to have “another priority beyond righting the company’s finances,” and will be more involved in selecting a successor this time. Though, some speculate Iger may sell Disney to Apple and preserve his legacy as “Disney’s last CEO.”

Chapek was let go on Sunday, November 20, with Iger reclaiming the helm immediately. The board had only approached Iger on Friday, with things moving quickly enough that Chapek was notified only moments before the public announcement was made. The board had been attempting to secure a replacement for a while, even before Chapek’s contract renewal earlier this year. Several executives had begun raising complaints to the board in an attempt to convince them to let him go.

Although the board has identified some internal candidates that might be able to assume the CEO position, they felt that they “didn’t want to put someone new in that position given all various pressures on the company.”

Because they had to renew his contract, Chapek stands to receive more than $20 million in a severance package. Iger’s new contract is at a much lower base salary than either Chapek’s or his previous contract.

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