In March when Bob Iger announced his retirement from the position as CEO of The Walt Disney Company lots of questions and speculation rippled around the entertainment world. Many speculated that there was some underlying reason that must be the reason that he was leaving. Perhaps he saw the coronavirus crisis coming. Or maybe he recognized some other crisis on the horizon. Others speculated that something was wrong with Iger’s health or personal life. However, according to a New York Times article none of those reasons are correct.
The New York Times article that was released over the weekend gave a fairly conclusive look at Bob Iger’s actions before and after his retirement. Having attempted to retire four times before, Iger decided it was really the time to do this and notified Disney’s board about this in December. A plan for the transition was then worked out and then executed. On February 25th the announcement was made.
Around this time, the coronavirus pandemic also becoming a bigger deal. Just days before the announcement, Shanghai Disney closed its gates. The weeks following didn’t get any better as Disney went on to close all of its theme parks globally.
A New Disney
As the world has changed dramatically in the last few months, Iger has recognized that so will The Walt Disney Company. He is now focusing on what Disney will look like in the future. According to the New York Times, the company that will emerge from this crisis could be “a Disney with fewer employees, leading the new and uncertain business of how to gather people safely for entertainment.”
This is a necessity for the future of Disney. Nearly every part of the company has been hammered by the pandemic. Whereas the last fiscal year Disney brought in around $26 billion. With the impact of coronavirus, it is estimated by industry analyst Hal Vogel that the company is losing approximately $30 million a day or more. This has necessitated a $6 billion loan for the company. This was seen as both a recognition of how bad of straights Disney is in but also the hope that Disney leadership has for the future.
Back to Work
Because of the severity of this crisis on the Disney company, Iger has decided to continue on as the main leader at Disney. As the company faces furloughs across the board of ‘non-necessary’ executive and employee pay cuts, Bob Iger is right in the thick of it leading meetings and discussions from home via video conferences. The big question that needs to be answered is what the new Disney will look like after the coronavirus crisis is over.
One question that needs to be answered in this regards people feeling safe when they enter the parks. Disney is looking at ways of taking guests temperatures as they enter the parks. However, that is just one segment of the Disney business. There are also questions about what the future of television looks like. Disney may discontinue the traditional practice of advertising up-fronts or creating pilots for shows that end up not airing. There is also a very real chance that when Disney reopens it will have fewer employees filling fewer offices. The Disney of the future might be a lighter and more nimble company. Iger reportedly told two people that he foresees Disney having fewer employees in the future. Iger denies making these comments.
Bob Iger’s return to the center of leadership at Disney comes just weeks after Bob Chapek was appointed to the role of CEO. The future of the Disney company will be contingent on how the two of these two leaders handle the coming two years. These extenuating circumstances will reportedly be taken into account when Chapek’s performance is reviewed. However, Iger’s performance will determine what the future will look like for The Walt Disney Company.
Iger may have thought that with the publication of his book The Ride of a Lifetime was the beginning of the end of his career when it was released last year. However, with this new crisis threatening Disney’s very existence, what Iger may end up being remembered for is how Disney emerges from this chapter.