Feb 25, 2020
Bob Iger Steps Down as Disney CEO: Interview Transcript
Disney CEO Bob Iger has decided to step down, effective immediately. He did an interview on February 25 to discuss the decision. Read the transcript of Bob Iger’s interview right here.
Julia Boorstin: (00:02)
Thanks so much. I am joined now by Bob Iger, as of today, executive chairman of Disney, overseeing all creative endeavors at the company and also Bob Chapek as of just now the new CEO of the Walt Disney company. Thank you both so much for joining us today.
Julia Boorstin: (00:19)
So first to Bob Iger, you back in 2017 when you announced the Fox acquisition, extended your contract as CEO through the end of 2021. Why make this change now more than a year and a half before your contract is up?
Bob Iger: (00:33)
Well, the company has a great collection of assets, businesses, brands, franchises, particularly with the acquisition of 21st century Fox and the purchase of the larger share of Hulu. And we also have recently deployed a very new and extremely important strategy, the direct to consumer strategy, that led to the ESPN Plus product being launched, and then of course Disney Plus, which launched in November. So as we looked at the businesses, we felt we have a great set of assets, we have a great strategy, what’s next? And what was next in terms of my own priorities is making sure that the creative pipeline of the company was really rich, that all of our creative engines were working extremely well, and I wanted to spend more and more of my time on that. But the only way that I was able to do that was to give up the day to day running of the company, to pass the torch on to Bob so that my direct reports and the authority over our businesses will shift to him, freeing me up to do what I think is our next big priority.
Julia Boorstin: (01:35)
Now, for investors, this seems abrupt. The stock is trading down. I interviewed you just a couple of weeks ago after your quarterly earnings report, how long has this been in the works and for how long have you identified Bob Chapek as your successor?
Bob Iger: (01:50)
Well, we’ve had a succession process that’s been ongoing with the board for actually a few years. It’s something that we talk about virtually at every meeting and we identified Bob a while ago as a likely candidate to succeed me, but they went through a thorough process and discussed other possibilities. So it’s again something that the board has been engaged in for quite a while. They got to know Bob very well during that period of time. He ran one of our most complex, one of our most important businesses, Global Parks and Resorts for instance, during a time of great capital investment at a time of great change, and did so very well after working for the company for 30 years.
Bob Iger: (02:31)
In terms of the market today, what’s going on obviously today is something that is very serious and certainly a concern to us, but the timing is unfortunate but that’s not anything that we can control and it certainly didn’t play into the timing of this decision
Julia Boorstin: (02:49)
And you signed on to continue through the end of 2021, overseeing all the creative elements of the company, but at the same time Bob Chapek is going to be running the day to day business. For you as executive chairman and you as CEO, will that create confusion about who’s in charge of, you’re going to be reporting to Bob Iger. How do you address those concerns and potential conflict while you’re executive chairman?
Bob Iger: (03:13)
Well, we’ve worked together extremely well, actually. Our senior management team has worked together quite well. We know each other well, we get together often, we share a number of the issues of our days in terms of running the businesses, so there’s a lot of familiarity, a lot of collegiality. In terms of confusion, we’re not really concerned about that. Bob is going to be running the company and running the day to day businesses. As I said earlier, all of my direct reports shift to him. I have one direct report and that’s Bob. I will be focusing on the creative, but any of the big creative decisions that have to be made, I fully intend for Bob to be at my side. It’s important for him to learn as much as possible. What this is about really is we believe a really good succession process and a really smart transition process. The goal here during the period of time that I will be executive chairman is to create a transition process that is smooth and functioning and effective, and we’re not concerned at all about creating any confusion.
Julia Boorstin: (04:15)
Now, for you, Bob Chapek, congratulations on this new role. Your predecessor Bob Iger made a number of massive changes that really transformed the Disney company, the acquisition of Marvel, Pixar, Lucas film, the launch of the direct to consumer business. What do you see as your mission going forward? Do you imagine transforming the company as much as he has?
Bob Chapek: (04:37)
Well, I obviously have huge shoes to fill. Bob’s legacy in the company is just profound. I think my role is now to take the strategic pillars that he’s so well established over the last 15 years and continue to work on those and implement those in the marketplace, most importantly, our direct to consumer initiatives, but at the same time look around the corner for what disruption might be going on in the marketplace that will necessitate a fresh look at those things. But right now, the course that Bob has laid is one that we fully intend to follow and I think will pay dividends for our shareholders for years to come.
Julia Boorstin: (05:13)
What does it mean for you as the new CEO to have Iger as the Executive Chairman for more than a year and a half?
Bob Chapek: (05:20)
Well, it’s certainly a privilege to have Bob still available and there for guidance. I’ve had a front row seat to Bob Iger’s magic at Walt Disney now for 15 years, and to be able to extend that for the next year and a half or so while I make the transition into this new role is just the luxury that frankly I couldn’t ask for more.
Julia Boorstin: (05:43)
Do you feel like your mission and your purpose as CEO is to continue on the path that Iger and started or do you envision more need for change or potential acquisitions or sort of shifts down the line?
Bob Chapek: (05:59)
I suspect in the beginning it will be more of the same because essentially the strategies that Bob’s put in place are really long lasting in terms of where the company’s going to go in the short term. Over time though as we all both recognize, disruption and transformation are just inevitable in this business and it hits each one of our businesses a little bit differently, but it’s inevitable that those businesses will be disrupted and it’s recognizing at that time when we’ll need to shift. And that’s I think the art of the job.
Julia Boorstin: (06:27)
You are taking on this job at a moment of incredible change, not just in the streaming business, we’re about to see the launch of several new streaming services, but also in the parks division. You until today, ran the parks and consumer products division, two of Disney’s parks are closed right now, Hong Kong and Shanghai. I know you oversaw the launch of the Shanghai park. There’s no sign of when these parks will open. Are you concerned about the longterm impacts of Coronavirus, not just on those parks, but potentially also on the cruise business, which you’ve run.
Bob Chapek: (06:58)
The longterm health of our business is really a function of our consumer demand for unbelievable storytelling and our product. And while this is certainly a bump in the road in terms of the Coronavirus, we’ll come through this like we’ve come through every other challenge that we’ve had and that affinity for the brand and our storytelling will way out last any type of short term blip that we have from Corona.
Julia Boorstin: (07:21)
Bob mentioned the stock market’s decline over the past two days. It’s been a very volatile time in the markets and there’s always a question sort of how the consumer will react. Will there be an economic downturn or a correction that could impact consumer spending, it could impact advertising? What’s your outlook as you take the helm of this international major multi-platform media industry about the potential risks to all of those different factors?
Bob Chapek: (07:47)
We’re always very conscious of disruptive elements, socioeconomic elements, social elements that could come in at any time and disrupt our business. But I think when you have the core assets that we’ve got, those franchises, the Disney brand, once again, we’ll sort of see our way through all those disruptive elements. Doesn’t mean that we won’t get surprised tomorrow, but we’ve got the strength to get through them all.
Julia Boorstin: (08:11)
Now you’ve worked in many different parts of the Disney business, most recently parks and consumer products, also the studio distribution of home entertainment, but you’ve not worked in the TV bundle business, the part of the business that is suffering from the cord cutting trends and which I’ve talked to Bob Iger about many times over the past several years. As someone who has not worked in that business, what’s your outlook to the threat of cord cutting and how to handle it?
Bob Chapek: (08:36)
Well, to me, the commonality between our businesses is our consumer. And I’ve worked in consumer businesses my entire career and it’s not ironic that our strategy for the media business now as a direct to consumer business where we have that one on one relationship with our customer, without having a lot of middlemen in between. That’s my sweet spot, and I think that is something that I could leverage now throughout all my experiences, not only at Disney but even before Disney in terms of figuring out how we take the data, the information, the technology, and once again, our storytelling right direct to the consumer so that we can take all the great equities that we have and continue to build those for our shareholders.
Julia Boorstin: (09:18)
Now, Bob, as you focus on the storytelling and less on the day to day, do you imagine potentially extending your time at the Walt Disney company beyond December, 2021
Bob Iger: (09:29)
No, I don’t know. I’ve been with the company 45 years. I was in the CEO job for 15 of those years. I was president and COO for five. It’s been a fun run and I’m looking forward to the run ending, but I still have a job to do.
Julia Boorstin: (09:44)
And what will you do after 2021?
Bob Iger: (09:47)
I’m going to use my imagination.
Julia Boorstin: (09:49)
You’ll use your imagination?
Bob Iger: (09:50)
I’m going to go to Disney.
Julia Boorstin: (09:51)
You’re going to go to Disneyland, as I’m sure you’ll probably make your way there many times before then.
Julia Boorstin: (09:56)
Well, I want to thank you both so much for coming to us after this historic announcement. Bob Iger, Bob Chapek, thank you both so much for talking to us today. Guys, back over to you in the studio.
Speaker 1: (10:06)
All right, Julia Boorstin with Bob Chapek and Bob Iger in a…