Ex-Disney boss Bob Iger is still reportedly unhappy about the way the Mouse House handled his exit and considers naming current CEO Bob Chapek as his successor one of his “worst business decisions.”
Iger, who stepped down as Disney CEO in early 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, came to regret his decision as the scope of the challenge facing the company became clear, according to the report.
“He said he was tired of being harangued about [succession] and said, ‘Fine, you guys have someone else run the business,’” a former Disney executive told Insider regarding Iger’s initial decision to step down and name Chapek to succeed him.
“He greatly regretted it as soon as COVID hit,” the executive added.
While the succession plan called for Chapek to report to both Iger and the Iger-led Disney board, their relationship soured quickly. The two executives reportedly disagreed on several key elements of Disney’s business — including how the company should be structured internally, its handling of political matters and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dysfunction was so significant that Iger and Chapek had their own advisory teams that occasionally competed, according to the report, which cited Disney sources and people familiar with Iger’s thinking.
Disney did not immediately return a request for comment.
Iger quickly chafed at Chapek’s leadership style and reportedly found his successor to be a “novice” in responding to talent management concerns and politics-adjacent disputes — such as the company’s infamous contract dispute with “Black Widow” actress Scarlett Johansson and its clash with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the GOP-backed “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Iger also purportedly viewed Chapek as “arrogant and uninterested in other people’s opinions.”
Disney executives who were “deeply loyal” to Iger found his selection of Chapek to be “confusing,” according to one former executive.
“No one expected it to fall apart this fast,” the executive said.
When Iger stepped down as CEO in February 2020 “effective immediately,” tensions between him and Chapek were already running high. The board had expected Iger to remain as CEO through the end of that year.
“It was Bob Iger’s desire to move the timeline up — and if COVID hadn’t happened, none of the stuff between [him and Bob Chapek] would have transpired,” a Disney executive said.
The discord continued even after Iger formally exited his role as executive chairman.
When Disney faced criticism for remaining silent over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, Iger publicly contradicted his replacement — noting on Feb. 24 that he agreed with President Biden’s stance that it was a “hateful bill.”
In March, CNBC reported that Iger’s commentary on the matter had chafed Chapek. The report said the two men have had a falling out and rarely speak.
Tensions between Iger and Chapek reportedly remain high — with the pair exchanging little more than a “cordial greeting” when crossing paths at the Sun Valley Conference earlier this month.
The spat between Disney and DeSantis culminated in the Florida governor stripping the entertainment giant of its special tax status within the state.
Disney’s missteps prompted widespread speculation that Chapek could be ousted as CEO – with some floating the possibility that Iger could return to replace him.
But Disney gave Chapek a fresh contract extension in June complete with a $20 million annual bonus — a sign that he still has the board’s confidence.