ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Senior leadership at Disney announced Former Walt Disney Company Chief Executive Bob Iger is returning to lead Disney as Chief Executive Officer after current CEO Bob Chapek stepped down from the role Sunday.
News 6 spoke to retired Rollins College political science professor and author of “Married to the Mouse” Richard Foglesong about what the switch up could mean for the company and for Central Florida.
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“It took me by surprise. You know, Orlando is an important part of this story,” Foglesong said.
Foglesong has followed Disney’s impact on our area since its inception.
“I think the decision of the company to bring Bob Iger was generated in the first instance by the decline of Disney stock and by the announcement of retrenchments on the part of the Disney company under Bob Chapek,” Foglesong said.
Bob Chapek leaves the CEO position after a two-year run and recent criticism, including cost-cutting measures, ticket price-hikes, and speculation about layoffs. The outgoing CEO also came under fire for his response to the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“Bob Chapek had responded rather weakly to Governor DeSantis at first when the governor attacked wokeness at Disney,” Foglesong said. “Bob Iger has spoken out forcefully in defense of the LGBTQ community. I think what Bob Iger recognized is that wokeness is part of America and its the future. It’s important to the Disney company, not only because of their workforce, but because of their brand. He wanted to defend a brand that is inclusive and respects diversity.”
The announcement from the Walt Disney Company Board of Directors appointing Bob Iger as chief executive officer included a statement from leadership saying in part:
Iger spent 15 years as CEO from 2005 to 2020, during his time, Foglesong says he was defined by his support of streaming services, and investments in the meta world.
Chapek, who had come from the theme park side of Disney, successfully managed the retrenchments that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic
“In some ways, this is a case of back to the future,” Foglesong said. “Back to Bob Iger, the guy with the vision about what the Disney company should be in the future”.
That includes the future of the most high-profile employer in the state of Florida. Disney is a top contributor to Orlando’s tourism industry, which generated an estimated $75 billion in annual economic impact and more than 463,000 jobs according to one study in 2019.
Senior leadership at Disney say Iger agreed to return as CEO for two years and he will play an integral role in naming his successor.
News 6 reached out to several of the employee unions in the area to see if they would share a comment. None of them did.
On social media, many people are applauding Bob Iger’s return. Disney stock is also up since the announcement was made this weekend.