Bob Iger Confirms He Will Leave Disney in 2026
In a clear example of, “Sure, you say that now,” Disney CEO Bob Iger just confirmed that he will leave the company in 2026.
Iger made these and other remarks at a business conference earlier today. Let’s discuss the highlights.
What Iger Said…
Iger appeared at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit on Wednesday, November 29th.
This event enticed other media CEOs like David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discover to appear as well.
Let’s just say that Iger had a better time of it than Zaslav, who inexplicably described his studio’s recent mistakes as “brave.”
Zaslav also refused to comment on questions regarding his nine-figure salaries at a time when WBD had cut its storytelling divisions to the bone.
That was exactly the sort of warmup act that Iger wanted, as he came across as the (vastly) superior media executive during his comments.
Iger started by explaining the state of Disney as he saw it in mid-2022.
“I was disappointed in what I was seeing in the transition period and while I was out.”
Since Iger had left the company at the end of 2021, the CEO claims, “[I] worked hard at distancing myself from (Disney and the Chapek regime).”
Unwilling to make the same mistake twice, Iger is currently spearheading Disney’s succession plan for 2026.
While I realize many of you fall into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category about the idea of Iger leaving Disney – and I do as well – he came across as sincere.
Specifically, the CEO indicated that he had performed a “postmortem” on Disney’s previous succession failure. Here’s the applicable quote:
“I’ve tried hard to conduct my own postmortem, just so that we as a company don’t do it again.
“What did we do wrong? And we discovered certain things that we could do better.”
That sounds like something someone would say when they’re trying to learn from their mistakes and do better the next time.
Iger added that he is definitely stepping down in 2026.
Should We Believe Iger?
I’m not gonna tell anybody what to do here.
Instead, let’s focus on what we know. Bob Iger WAS honest about his retirement intentions in a past life.
We can say this for sure because Iger retired from Disney on December 31st, 2021.
Before that, he had ceded the CEO title to Bob Chapek in February 2020.
Yes, we’ll always have conspiracy theories about whether Disney/Iger cut a deal with Chapek.
Similarly, others will wonder whether Iger positioned Chapek to fail, knowing that the “retired” executive could swoop in after the pandemic to save the day.
That’s pretty much what happened barely a year ago. And that’s why everyone will take Iger’s comments with some skepticism.
After all, if a loved one tells you that they’ll do something three years from now, would you believe them?
Much can change in just a few years, as we’ve witnessed with Disney.
In 2019, the company was at the top of the media world thanks to its many blockbuster releases and the debut of the Disney+ streaming service.
Fast forward to today and, well, you know…
Still, Bob Iger turns 73 in February, and he has sounded tired and frustrated often during his return engagement at Disney.
There’s a Danny Glover quote from Lethal Weapon that applies here, but I won’t post it on a family website. You know the one, though.
Iger may have simply had enough of the Ike Perlmutters and Nelson Peltzes of the world.
While I’ve frequently mentioned that media moguls tend to work until they’re well into their 80s or 90s, Iger seems to recognize the truth here.
We have a historically unprecedented generation gap unfolding in society. He may simply believe he’s too old to oversee the Disney storytelling machine.
Disney Will Keep Linear Networks
Disney held an employee Town Hall yesterday, and while we had multiple reporters ready to write, we didn’t cover much of it.
That’s because very little happened. In fact, Disney executives didn’t even field questions from their workers.
For this reason, a whisper campaign started that Iger didn’t want to lie to people in the Linear Networks division regarding their uncertain futures at Disney.
I’m happy to report that these fears appear unfounded.
Iger explicitly stated that Disney won’t sell its Linear Networks. In fact, his exact quote is that they’re “not for sale!”
Iger expanded on his thought process, and it aligns with comments we made at the time:
“Sometimes, when I am looking for a reaction to my own thought process, I like to test that process in public, particularly in ways that I might be able to get a reaction from the investment community.”
Disney has done the same thing with its theme park announcements. It’ll suggest possibilities to gauge reactions, which is informational but misleading.
Iger adopted the same approach with its Linear Networks, recognized that many investors highly valued Disney’s cable channels, and decided to stand pat.
The CEO adds that Disney has cracked the math on this one. “(Linear networks) can be run more efficiently, with some difficult choices.
“Second, they can be run in partnership with (streaming).”
In other words, Iger and his team have uncovered efficiencies that allow the services to work in cooperation rather than competition.
Here’s Iger’s explanation: “They’re being run more efficiently today than in July when I made those comments.”
As long as Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ and Linear Networks are working in tandem, Disney has no real need to divest its cable channels.
Feature Image: Washington Post illustration; Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP; iStock
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