Putting an arbitrary timeline on how long a successful CEO holds office doesn’t make much sense. It’s a Walt Disney thing (SAY) – Get a free report made to Michael Eisner, but in this case the company had a clear successor in place in Bob Iger.
In Iger’s case, the CEO was essentially forced out for Bob Chapek due to his age and Disney’s arbitrary historical policies. Chapek was not a clear successor. He was actually a somewhat surprising choice, and his rise caused other top talent — basically, the other people who wanted the top job — to leave the company.
It never makes sense to move on from a high performing CEO who still wants the job unless the next person in line seems to have an even higher ceiling. You can tell that was the case when Iger replaced Eisner (and history now shows you would have been right).
But, pushing Iger away the first time around was a mistake, and it’s a mistake Disney seems intent on repeating. Iger signed a two-year contract when he returned after Chapek was ousted and finding a successor was one of the tasks named in the press release celebrating Iger’s surprise return.
It’s something that naturally shouldn’t happen on a set schedule, but a new report from Deadline suggests Disney plans to stick to the two-year schedule and a favorite to take over has emerged.
Disney handcuffs Iger from day one
Iger should be the CEO of Disney until it’s proven he’s no longer the best person for the job or he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore. When he first left, it was clearly against his will and it made no sense to choose a successor who didn’t agree with his fundamental vision.
Chapek structurally changed Disney, and basically the first thing Iger did was change it. This largely meant giving more power to the company’s creative leaders instead of centralizing decisions about platforms and release dates.
It makes sense that whatever Iger puts in place is the framework for the structure of the next CEO. It could happen, but Disney very clearly wants to identify a successor as soon as possible, which puts Iger in a tricky position.
The new CEO is basically a lame duck and that can make it difficult to hire and even make creative decisions. Will senior executives and creative talent want to come to Disney when corporate strategies could change with a new CEO?
Most movies take at least a year, maybe longer to develop. Will Disney be able to revitalize its Star Wars movie franchise, get Pixar back on track, and attract top talent to lead Marvel projects if the big boss can change before those movies and shows launch? in streaming?
Disney may have its next CEO
It’s hard to believe that Iger only wants to run Disney for two years. Realistically, that was the deal he needed to make to get the job back and Deadline reports that his successor has already been identified.
Chief financial officer Christine McCarthy, who was flagged as someone heavily involved in ousting Chapek, emerged as the frontrunner.
“Christine has always been a force to be reckoned with, but you have to put her on a top five possibility list after the last few weeks,” a Disney insider told the website.
Iger has a long working relationship with McCarthy, but it’s hard to imagine he wants a bean counter in charge of creativity-based Disney. McCarthy was reportedly the person to worry Disney’s board about Disney+ losses, even though the investment in the streaming service essentially followed the trajectory that Chapek had been very public about.
Whether it’s McCarthy or anyone else in Iger’s C-suite who ends up taking the job, that change isn’t likely to happen until Iger chooses to walk away or proves that he lost touch. Disney doesn’t seem willing to do that, so Disney’s next CEO could very well only hold the job until he makes a mistake or two and someone else with one eye on the chair of the CEO can suggest Iger in the third round.
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