Disney and Iger: People, trust and the roundabout… | Gagen MacDonald

Insights & Events / Blog

People, trust and the roundabout road to profit

Dec 14, 2022

On Nov. 21, the Walt Disney Company Board of Directors announced the return of Bob Iger to the position of CEO — a role he had relinquished to Bob Chapek only two short years prior.

The media frenzy was deafening, though not surprising, with numerous headlines talking about the return of “Bob #1” and the departure of “Bob #2.”

In trading that day, Disney stock, which had fallen by as much as 90 percent during Chapek’s tenure, gained almost $6, jumping from $91.80 to $97.58 on a down day for markets.

Investors clearly trust Bob Iger.


Iger is no doubt a gifted business leader, as his long track record of success at Disney supports. He has left little ambiguity since taking over that his top priority is making Disney’s streaming business profitable. Every CEO, however, has to care about profit. What sets Iger apart — and what makes so many confident he can actually fix Disney’s balance sheet — is his attention to the people side of business.

For as much as Iger’s successor, Chapek, ended up hurting the balance sheet, it was not a failure to focus on numbers that spelled the end for Chapek; actually, in many ways, it was tunnel vision on them. This is why investors, superfans and employees alike have celebrated his ouster.

There was the public spat with actress Scarlett Johansson. There was the news release in which the company said Disneyland had an “unfavorable attendance mix” because of the high portion of local, annual passholder guests (read: superfans) attending the park, as opposed to out-of-towners who would spend more money. And then there was the lack of respect for the experiences of customers and employees — from cumbersome, cost-adding systems created for park guests to laying off 32,000 employees as the company doubled down on its Disney+ investment.

You start to see what Iger means when he keeps talking about “the soul of the company.” If you lose the loyalty of your people, a lot of things start going wrong.

In fairness, Chapek was Iger’s hand-picked CEO. His strategy agenda over two short years no doubt had Iger’s fingerprints all over it. It’s important not to place too much blame on Chapek, or act like he went rogue. This, however, is exactly why the difference in how they’ve performed is so noteworthy. The only major difference between the two Bobs is that one seems to understand how important people are to Disney. The other, at least through his actions and words, seems like he never quite took that part seriously.

If that’s not a proof point for the human side of business, what is?

/ Dec 14, 2022

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