The Walt Disney Company, known for its iconic entertainment brands, announced a massive strategic shift Sunday night, with former CEO Bob Iger returning to the role he left in 2020.
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Iger, who is coming out of retirement after serving as CEO from 2005 to 2020 and CEO until his retirement in 2021, will replace Bob Chapek, the CEO who it happened just two years ago.
The surprising development comes as Disney, once an overwhelmingly trusted brand for children’s content, has been in the crosshairs of the culture war.
Disney announced Sunday night that Chapek had resigned and that Iger would return to a two-year role, a move that surprised industry observers. The company’s board said Iger is uniquely positioned to help navigate Disney through today’s difficult terrain.
“The board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely positioned to lead the company through this crucial period,” said the board chair. , Susan Arnold. said of the shock movement.
Arnold anticipates a “seamless leadership transition,” considering Iger’s past connections to Disney leadership. And considering he’s been gone for less than a year, these relationships are still fresh.
The leadership shakeup comes after Disney posted a lower-than-expected fourth quarter, with shares falling more 40% this year. Shares hit a 20-year low after the fourth-quarter report.
Chapek, for his part, had a difficult tenure. He was forced to deal with COVID-19 shutdowns, among other challenges. Among those issues, Christians and parent groups have been protesting and rejecting the rise of LGBTQ themes in Disney’s content.
Much of Disney’s displeasure began when Chapek initially refused. wade in the debate on parental rights in Florida education. Critics have vociferously dubbed the parental rights legislation, which took effect on July 1, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite the fact that the word “gay” is absent from the text.
The law prohibits educators from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in pre-K through third grade. Initially, when the bill was proposed, Disney remained silent, with Chapek receiving criticism for refusing to repudiate it after saying that such actions by corporations are generally “counterproductive.”
But due to the intense pressure, Disney reversed course and jumped right in. The company suddenly pledged to help efforts to repeal the law, issuing a statement on March 28 that pressed the issue.
“Florida’s HB 1557 bill, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have become law,” Disney said. said. “Our goal as a company is to have this law struck down by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting national and state organizations working to achieve this.”
SCOOP: Disney diversity and inclusion manager Vivian Ware says the company removed all mentions of “ladies,” “gentlemen,” “boys” and “girls” at its theme parks to create “that magical moment” for children who do not identify with traditional gender roles. pic.twitter.com/OWsGTUoeCA
— Christopher F. Rufo (@realchrisrufo) March 29, 2022
After, leaked videos of Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow Summit,” an internal conference for employees, made the rounds. One of those clips showed Chapek apologizing to LGBTQ employees for “not being the ally” they needed and pledging to implement change.
“I am committed to being a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” Chapek said. “[I] I apologize for not being the ally you needed me to be. [I’m] committed to ensuring that our company lives up to its values.”
Other videos surfaced as well, including one from Karey Burke, Disney’s president of general entertainment, supposedly proclaiming She is the mother of pansexual and transgender children. She also spoke about seeking to see “many, many LGBTQIA characters” in Disney content.
As Disney pushed harder against the Parental Rights in Education Act, the situation between the company and the state of Florida, which is home to many of its parks and attractions, descended.
After months of public spats between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican leader and Sunshine State lawmakers upped the ante.
The Florida legislature rescinded Disney’s decades-long control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a private government controlled by the entertainment giant; Disney’s sprawling Florida campus, which is home to its theme parks, resides on that property. The district will be dissolved in June 2023.
Not long after, Disney Pixar released “Lightyear,” a movie inspired by the “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear. The film featured a same-sex kiss and hit the headlinesbut it didn’t deliver as much at the box office as some critics had hoped.
The company is now gearing up for the November 23 release of “Strange World,” an animated film featuring a gay teen romance, as CBN News recently reported.
Chapek’s replacement for Iger comes in the midst of all this, and more. And while some might dismiss the conservative protest and anti-Disney talk, some polls earlier this year offer up some potentially dire reputation metrics.
A poll commissioned by NBC News and published earlier this year found that just 33% of respondents had a “very” or “somewhat” positive view of The Walt Disney Company. That low ratio follows a separate survey by Public Opinion Strategies, which found 77% had a favorable opinion from the entertainment brand just a year earlier.
Furthermore, a separate survey revealed when Disney became embroiled in the controversy over the leaked videos and disputes over the Parental Rights and Education Act also returned alarming results.
“News reports reveal that Disney is focusing on creating content to expose young children to sexual ideas,” one read. survey question of the Trafalgar Group and the State Action Convention. “Does this make you more or less likely to do business with Disney?”
Overall, nearly 70% of likely US voters said they are less likely to do business with Disney in response to this question, with 57% saying they are “much less likely” to interact with the brand.
Just over 9% said they are more like doing business with the entertainment company, with 23% saying there was “no difference” in their willingness to do business with Disney.
With these statistics in mind, it will be intriguing to see how Iger navigates the complex and shifting business waters and huge culture battles raging below the surface.
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