Will Bob Chapek Survive Disney’s Latest Setbacks?
For the first time in 17 years, my friends and I didn’t live-blog the Academy Awards. We just weren’t excited about the various nominees.
However, as a movie lover, I still watched the admittedly surreal proceedings.
Some of the funniest moments involved obvious camera cuts to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.
He looked as comfortable and natural at the event as I would at dinner with the Queen of England.
Within 48 hours, another hit piece came out against Chapek, this time from The Hollywood Reporter.
Right now, if an angel gets their wings every time somebody posts one, Heaven would have an overcrowding problem.
At some point, we must address the elephant in the living room, though. Will Bob Chapek survive all the recent setbacks?
A Quick Recap
I recently recapped Bob Chapek’s worst five mistakes as Disney CEO. You can read that article to learn more about each event.
The gist is that one group of people likes Chapek. That’s Wall Street, the investors whose approval Chapek has coveted.
Most of Chapek’s decisions over the past two years targeted Wall Street. He wants to run a tight financial ship and has increased prices everywhere for that reason.
While many vocal opponents have lamented theme park expenses, Chapek has faced unprecedented financial challenges along the way.
The pandemic happened right around the time that Disney started footing the bill for its $71.3 billion Fox purchase. That’s brutal misfortune.
While Chapek has done his best – and I honestly believe that – in impossible circumstances, even Wall Street has soured on him.
On the day Disneyland reopened in 2021, DIS stock sold for $186.02. As I type this, the price hovers around $141, a fall of $45 in 11 months.
So, even Chapek’s advocates have grown frustrated with Disney’s sluggish performance.
As for his critics, they are legion. Chapek has alienated *deep breath* Hollywood celebrities, Florida AND California politicians, cast members, theme park fanatics, Disney executives, etc.
I legitimately could keep going, but that’s pretty much everyone who should care about Disney, save for Wall Street investors.
There’s a joke in politics that people should call all their friends. Then, after those two calls, they should try everyone else. That’s where Chapek is at right now.
About Chapek and Hit Pieces
A hit piece is a publishing term for an article that plays hard and fast with the truth to sway public sentiment.
I’m honestly not even sure whether the articles we’re reading about Chapek qualify, as they’re mostly based in reality. And that’s the problem here.
Nobody has to say anything unfair about Chapek to make him look bad. Unfortunately, his performance to date has done that.
Honestly, I view the whole thing like being the quarterback of the New York Jets. Who was the last good one? Chad Pennington? Joe Namath? Flash Gordon?
Sometimes, you enter a situation where you’re just doomed to fail.
When Bob Iger retired/resigned as CEO of Disney, he unintentionally left a mess, which is remarkable in and of itself.
Iger had earned a claim as the greatest CEO in modern corporate history.
However, the pandemic did such a number on Disney that succeeding Iger seemed like an uphill battle.
How do you run a company whose core divisions are currently earning virtually no revenue?
Well, I would argue that the one thing you shouldn’t do is make enemies. You need friends instead.
Ergo, Chapek’s treatment of Scarlett Johansson struck me as senseless and regrettable. It’s also why he looked so ridiculous at the Academy Awards.
I can assure you that nobody wanted him there. That was a shameless photo op that proved too insincere even for Hollywood.
The surrounding people couldn’t help but gawk. The pervasive opinion was, “What is HE doing here?”
We’re talking about a show broadcast on a Disney network wherein Disney productions earned more than one-quarter of all awards.
Disney’s CEO appeared woefully out of place anyway. Unfortunately, that’s what his life has become.
A Blast from the Past
The Hollywood Reporter (THR) article takes a step that nobody else had done before. It openly speculates about who will replace Chapek.
Yes, that’s how much the situation has declined since Disney’s staff revolt regarding the Don’t Say Gay bill.
Chapek has now lost the faith of his employees. He’s currently in the process of trying to get them back.
Some analysts don’t expect it to work, though. As such, THR lists two potential candidates as the next head of Disney. And one of them caused me to do a doubletake.
Tom Staggs famously “won” a bakeoff against Disney’s then-CFO Jay Rasulo a few years ago.
His presumed reward involved a succession plan to follow Iger as the next CEO of Disney.
At the time, the two individuals were extremely tight, and their families even vacationed together.
Then, barely a year later, Staggs suddenly left Disney. Reports indicated that he had fallen out of favor with Iger, his close friend.
Recently, Staggs has worked at Forest Road Acquisition Corp, alongside another familiar name from Disney, Kevin Mayer.
You may recall that Mayer just finished second to Chapek in the race to replace Iger.
Well, THR believes that Staggs could return as the CEO at Disney, bringing events from 2015 full circle.
A reporter had point-blank asked me last week whether I believed Mayer would leave Forest Road to return to Disney.
I told the person no because I didn’t believe there was enough money in it for him. Mayer and Staggs are well on their way to becoming billionaires.
Still, the idea of replacing Chapek may prove irresistible to Staggs, who left Disney somewhat humiliated, even though he’d done nothing wrong.
The Other Named Candidate
THR also reports the possibility of Peter Rice as the next CEO. He’s the current head of Disney General Entertainment Content.
Before that, Rice had run Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Filmed Entertainment, Fox Television, and 21st Century Fox.
Basically, if you have liked some movie or TV show on Fox since 2000, you like Rice.
His promotion would go a long way toward satisfying the Hollywood crowd that Chapek angered.
What This Means for Chapek
Look, I’ve tried to level with you every step of the way about Bob Chapek. I don’t think he’s gotten a fair shake, but I also believe he can be his own worst enemy.
Chapek has proven wholly inept in terms of PR, which is that much worse in the wake of Iger’s tenure. That man was a master of spin control.
Still, we need to be honest here. Something’s up when the trades start speculating about potential replacements AND have specific names in mind.
I’ve dismissed previous outcries about Chapek’s tenure as overblown, but the indecisive approach to the Don’t Say Gay bill might prove his undoing.
Bob Chapek needs some wins. Otherwise, he will NOT survive these recent setbacks.
Feature Image: CNBC