The analyst Michael Nathanson brought some big media investors to L.A. this week for various off-the-record chats with Hollywood leaders. Trends, priorities, red flags, updated investment theses—that kind of stuff. Analyst “bus tours” are common (the creative executives hate them), and the crew on this one was joined for separate sit-downs not just by execs from Disney, Endeavor, Warner Bros. Discovery and others, but by Bob Iger, the former Disney C.E.O. Iger is not currently running an entertainment company, but he is, like many Disney shareholders, watching every move his former employer makes as its stock has tanked about 40 percent this year.
Iger, as might be expected, has some opinions. He was diplomatic about Disney and its current leader, Bob Chapek, in his Q&A session, according to one person familiar with the meeting. But when pressed by Nathanson, he did share concerns about the company’s recent performance and strategy. That adheres with what I’ve been hearing lately from people in Iger’s circle; the polished executive is still careful not to criticize Disney or Chapek in public, but privately, lots of folks ask what he thinks, and when he answers, it’s not favorable. The recent stock dive has only exacerbated those feelings, say people who have met with him. (Disney, Iger and Nathanson all declined to comment; and Nathanson was annoyed that I was writing about his private meetings.)
It’s no secret, of course, that Iger’s Disney separation was tough, and that the Bobs don’t get along. I won’t rehash the full saga: the frostiness when Iger stepped back on Feb. 25, 2020, right before Covid forced Chapek to shut down the parks and lay off thousands; Chapek’s rage when Iger told the Times that the pandemic “would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob and the company contend with it;” Iger praising creativity over data in his last speech at the company’s Hawaii retreat, itself a perceived knock on career bean-counter Chapek; Chapek re-orging the company and brawling publicly with Scarlett Johansson without Iger’s input; Iger throwing a goodbye party and seating himself by Steven Spielberg and Chapek with the suits.