So… was it the beard? By now you’ve seen the legitimately shocking news that Bob Chapek, the embattled and recently hirsute Disney C.E.O., has been replaced by Bob Iger, the 71-year-old former weatherman and mostly beloved Disney C.E.O. A Sunday night dagger of a press release thanked Chapek for his service and promised that Iger would lead for two years to “set the strategic direction for renewed growth.” That’s the C-suite version of death by firing squad. Truly amazing stuff.
First, a number of readers have asked if I knew what was brewing when I wrote on Thursday about Iger’s persistent trash-talking of Chapek in private, and how the company’s recent stock slide had played into Iger’s criticisms. Alas, I did not (and in fact I’ve been chatting with a few Disney executives this weekend on another topic, and they had no idea what was up; the top people were told just before the press release). But I knew something was off. Think about it: Iger’s sentiments kept coming back to me via friends and associates, months after one would think that even he would move on with his new endeavors, so he clearly saw a lane.
Plus, as I revealed Thursday, he was taking meetings with investor groups, something more often reserved for executives whose companies, you know, have investors. I didn’t mention it on Thursday, but Iger was also at a conference in Miami this month chatting up shareholders and others. If he didn’t already know what was afoot—and one Disney insider told me tonight that the whole plan likely came together in the past 10 days, after the disastrous earnings call on Nov. 8, even though the board had been antsy since investor Dan Loeb started questioning the strategy this summer—he was certainly acting like someone who was coming back to something.