In the aftermath of the Peter Rice drama at Disney, Dylan Byers and William D. Cohan discuss why Wall Street is so bullish on Bob Chapek, the odds of a Dana Walden succession, and why the pressure is on for David Zaslav.
Dylan Byers: Hi Bill, happy summer. I’m on vacation this week, but I was reading your thought-provoking conversation with our colleague Matt Belloni about Bob Chapek’s fate at Disney, and I have some thoughts and questions. Both of you seem bullish on Chapek getting renewed as C.E.O.—despite Florida, the ScarJo mess, Geoff Morrell, a struggling stock, and the sense that he very much isn’t a leader in the Bob Iger mold—and I don’t necessarily disagree. That said, I do find myself wondering whether or not Dana Walden, who was just promoted to overseeing all of Disney’s streaming and television content, could herself one day replace Chapek as chief executive, which would be particularly ironic since Chapek is said to have fired her predecessor, Peter Rice, at least in part because he posed a threat to Chapek’s control. None of this is remotely imminent, of course, but Walden has the creative savvy and career ambition, and now she’ll have the chance to develop the business acumen. Anyway, she looks the part, and it’d be a good look for the company to have a woman at the helm. Again, we’re years away from any of this, but… curious to hear your thoughts.
William D. Cohan: I hope you are having a nice week off, Dylan. You deserve it. Regarding succession at Disney, it all feels way too premature to me. Doesn’t it? Chapek is not exactly lighting the place on fire and the Disney stock is down 60 percent year-to-date, which makes him vulnerable to talk about Iger’s return or the fact that he may soon be replaced. But it’s also worth noting that of the 30 or so research analysts who cover Disney, 20 of them have a “buy” rating on the stock, with an average stock price target some 50 percent higher than where the stock is trading now.