A bit overshadowed between Thursday's many Disney+ reveals and Friday's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's trailer, longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that he will step down at the end of his current contract, which expires in 2021.
Iger has been the CEO of Disney since 2005. This is not the first time that Iger appeared ready to step down, as his contract was up in 2018 and he chose to stick around beyond the end of his contract during that year and he then agreed to extend his contract until 2021. It appears as though this time it is for real.
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Speaking to Disney investors on Thursday's investor day presentations, Iger announced, “I’m expecting my contract to expire at the end of 2021. And I was going to say ‘and this time I mean it,’ but I’ve said it before. I’ve been CEO since October of 2005 and as I’ve said many times, there’s a time for everything and 2021 will be the time for me to finally step down.”
Iger further differentiated this time from his previous "end" in 2018 by noting that Disney has a succession plan set up this time. He explained, ”I’ve been engaged with the board for quite some time and there’s discussion about a succession and they’ve been engaged in a succession process. And we continue to feel that they will be able to identify my successor on a timely enough basis so this company has smooth transition.”
Since Iger became CEO in 2005, Disney has been transformed through a series of high profile acquisitions. First Pixar in 2006, then Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 and Fox earlier this year. It was specifically for the tricky Fox acquisition that Iger was persuasded to extend his contract initially, as he agreed to stick it out with the company until the Fox deal could go through. Now that it is finished, Iger appears prepared to move on from one of the highest profile entertainment executive gigs in the business.
Iger also pushed heavily for Disney's upcoming streaming service, Disney+, so he exits the company having achieved effectively all of the initiatives that he had for Disney.
Two of the Disney executives rumored to follow in Iger's footsteps are Disney's head of strategy, Kevin Mayer, Disney's head of parks, Robert Chapek. Of course, since there are still two years before Iger's deal is out, the succession plan likely can choose to take its time and expand their options beyond those two frontrunners.