In a surprise announcement, Disney has named a successor to its longtime CEO Bob Iger, who oversaw a banner year for the company in 2019, including the successful launch of a new streaming service and box office domination. Bob Chapek, the parks division head and a 27-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company, will replace Iger immediately, with Iger assuming the role of executive chairman until his contract ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
"With the successful launch of Disney's direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO," Iger said in a statement.
Iger has headed The Walt Disney Company for the past 15 years, recently publishing a memoir about his experience; the end of his tenure is a "seismic move" for the company, The Hollywood Reporter writes. Others have noted the strange and abrupt timing of Iger's exit, with strategist Matthew Ball observing on Twitter that the decision comes as Iger is "14 months into 36 month extension" and that he "didn't do this during blow-them-away earnings a few weeks ago."
Named the 2019 businessperson of the year by Time, Iger's announcement also follows a year when Disney dominated 33 percent of all domestic box office grosses, marking "the first time since at least 1999 that a single studio has commanded this much box office revenue in the U.S. and Canada," Variety reports. Disney+, which launched last November, garnered a massive 10 million subscribers within a day of its launch.
"Iger is unassailable," Time wrote in its profile last year, before Iger's surprise announcement. "He's transformed his company from a stuffy media doyen into a sexy cultural force. He can glide to retirement in 2021 on the fumes of that triumph."