Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Disney recently reappointed Bob Iger as general manager, abruptly replacing his hand-picked successor, Bob Chapek, and giving Iger a first goal — to find a new replacement within the next two years.
Iger’s attention quickly turned to the other part of his board tenure — the immediate challenges facing Disney’s business, such as corporate reorganization, cost structure and the future growth of its streaming business. But that hasn’t quelled speculation about who his successor might be.
Media industry executives and corporate watchers are putting together a list of potential candidates that Iger and the board will likely consider when deciding who to groom for the next role. The pool of possibilities includes former disney executives who were previously seen as the future of the Mouse House before being ignored by Chapek, a few internal rising stars, and a few sleeper picks who are either close to the creative community or already tied to the company.
Another possibility some are considering is that Iger, whose return has been applauded by Wall Street and employees, stays longer than his two-year contract.
Here’s a look at some of the people who could be next to lead Disney.
Call from the bench
Dana Walden, President of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television, speaks onstage during the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation’s 25th Anniversary “Taste for a Cure” event at Fairmont Century Plaza on April 29, 2022 in Los Angeles, California .
Rich Polk | Getty Images
Before calling Iger, Disney’s board considered a few internal candidates to replace Chapek, but ultimately decided they were too new to take on the various pressures on the company, CNBC previously reported.
One of the candidates being considered was Dana Walden, said people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. She is responsible for general entertainment content and responsible for creating original entertainment and news programming for Disney’s streaming platforms, broadcast networks and cable networks.
Walden is known for having a hands-on role with content creators. In Iger’s first memo to employees after his reinstatement, he listed Walden among the top lieutenants who would work with him on Disney’s new structure, which would put “more decision-making back into the hands of our creative teams and streamline the costs”.
“Disney will likely choose a successor with talent-facing capabilities,” said Eric Schiffer, CEO and president of Patriarch Organization and Reputation Management Consultants. “Chapek’s downfall is that he mutilated relations with Hollywood.”
One of Chapek’s notable missteps during his quick stint as CEO was his handling of Scarlett Johansson’s pay dispute.
Walden took on his role in June after his boss, Peter Rice, was ousted after a clash with Chapek. Like Rice, Walden came to Disney in 2019 as part of the company’s acquisition of the assets of 21st Century Fox.
When she was promoted, Chapek had called Walden “a dynamic, collaborative leader and a cultural force who, in just three years, has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse.” At the time, Disney’s board of directors gave support to Chapek. Still, Walden lacks experience when it comes to business decisions and has focused his time on the creative side.
Meanwhile, Rice may be interested in returning to the company in some capacity and has remained in contact with Iger, people familiar with the matter said.
Alan Bergman, President, Walt Disney Studios Content
The Walt Disney Company via Getty Images
Alan Bergman, who has worked at Disney for more than 25 years, is another potential candidate, the people said. He is the President of Disney Studio Content and led the integration of Iger’s acquisitions into Disney’s overall content pipeline. He was also mentioned in Iger’s first memo.
Additionally, Bergman maintains relationships with many creatives in Hollywood. Disney is leaning on those relationships, and it might have a softer hand in managing talent and agents than was seen with the Chapek and Johansson dispute.. Unlike other senior Disney executives, however, Bergman doesn’t have experience in many other divisions and has focused much of his career on studio content.
Another Disney insider put forward as a possible candidate was Josh D’Amaro, people familiar with the company said.
D’Amaro is the head of Disney’s parks, experiences and products, the same position Chapek held before becoming CEO. His long track record in the business – he started his career at Disney in 1998 and his roles have mostly focused on resorts – could bode well for him.
Just like his charisma. D’Amaro is generally well-liked by his peers and park players and seen as a strong leader. Although guests at Disney’s national parks complained that prices were high and the ticket reservation system was flawed, few blamed D’Amaro. Instead, Chapek suffered the brunt of the criticism, with guests and analysts assuming the former CEO was responsible for establishing strict guidelines to generate more revenue at parks and resorts.
Yet D’Amaro lacks the creative experience that Iger is often praised for. His resume is focused on resort and park activities.
Rebecca Campbell, who is currently in charge of content and international operations at Disney, is another candidate Iger may favor, people familiar with the matter said.
The executive, who worked in various divisions of the company after starting on local television in 1997, is also highly regarded. However, while she also had experience running the streaming business in the early days of Disney+, she was let go and may not have the hands-on business experience. to make the tough decisions facing the company’s media operations.
If Campbell or Walden take the CEO role, it would be the first time Disney has had a woman at the helm of the company.
A dark horse candidate from inside the organization would be Sean Bailey, the president of Disney Studios, an observer said. Bailey, who enjoyed a relationship with Iger, is well-liked by the creative community.
Kevin Mayer, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Candle Media, Chairman of DAZN Group, speaks during the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore, Thursday, September 29, 2022.
Bryan van der Beek | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs were former Disney executives who were also in the running for the job before Iger moved to Chapek in early 2020.
Both left the company after being overwhelmed. Many had identified Mayer in particular as the likely successor. His name once again came to the top of the list.
“This issue shouldn’t have happened,” Engine Gaming and Media executive chairman Tom Rogers recently told CNBC, checking off the attributes needed for someone in this role, such as understanding the gaming industry. media, streaming experience, the ability to build franchise content and be a negotiator.
“They had this person, it was Kevin Mayer,” said Rogers, the former president of NBC Cable. “They still have that person, it’s still the right choice. The board made a mistake, I hope they don’t make that mistake again.”
Mayer had long been Disney’s chief strategist and was involved in deals such as the acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
Prior to Mayer’s departure, he held one of the company’s most important roles: developing and launching Disney+. Since leaving Disney, he had a short stint as CEO of TikTok and later joined billionaire Len Blavatnik’s investment firm Access Industries and became chairman of sports streamer DAZN.
Mayer and Staggs also run entertainment startup Candle Media, where they’ve extended their M&A experience with recent deals like Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and children’s content creator CoComelon.
For Mayer or Staggs to return to Disney, Iger would likely have to acquire Candle Media. Mayer has outstanding obligations to the acquired companies and has no interest in leaving his current job, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s possible that Iger could see CoComelon as a good intellectual property suitable for Disney+, although Iger said at a town hall on Monday that he was not interested in any mergers or acquisitions for Disney in the near future. coming.
Slightly outside the Disney bubble, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz could be another candidate, the Disney Observer noted. Kreiz sold two companies to Disney: Fox Kids Europe, which sold a majority stake to Disney in 2001, and Maker Studios in 2012.