Iger, Ego & Superego

Does Bob Iger need to redesign Disney to find the right leader for the company going forward? Photo: Jay L. Clendenin/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
July 16, 2023

Bob Iger’s two-year return trip to the Disney corner office has been extended—surprise, surprise—until the last day of December 2026, just as my Puck partner Matt Belloni and I predicted a few weeks ago. It seemed like Iger enjoys being back in the limelight, and he has not really done anything to position anyone to succeed him, despite the Disney board retaining Heidrick & Struggles and creating a subcommittee of the board of directors to focus on succession (as, of course, it should). 

Meanwhile, during the course of his first year back in office, Iger’s burdens increased rather than diminished, and many of the strategic decisions he made during his original tenure—the Murdoch deal, the challenges at Marvel, the uneven Disney+ strategy—have returned to haunt him and can’t fairly be blamed on his short-lived predecessor, Bob Chapek, no matter how convenient. Anyway, it has not been a Hollywood ending: Disney stock has gone down about 4 percent since Iger returned to Burbank, and yet the hapless Disney board of directors had no choice but to believe that Iger alone could save them.

I’ve always loved the de Gaulle aphorism that the graveyards are full of indispensable men. (Indeed, this thought haunted my many long days and nights at Lazard, and elsewhere on Wall Street, as highfalutin bankers, perhaps the future subjects of Dry Powder, pushed an endless stream of work across my desk.) The Disney board may feel this way, too, but I am told by my Wall Street sources that Iger took the two-year extension only “reluctantly.” That seems hard to believe, although he did say in his now famous tone-deaf interview with CNBC’s Dave Faber on the “sidelines” of the Allen & Co. Sun Valley conference last week that he did enjoy his brief 11 months of retirement and only came back to Disney because the board of directors asked him to return. (A Disney spokesperson declined to elaborate beyond what Iger told Faber.)