Bob Iger Warned Disney Executives To Not Let Data Influence Creative Decisions as Chapek Took Power, Tom Staggs Sabotaged, and More from Disney’s CEO Transition Discussed in New Hollywood Reporter Piece

As Bob Iger continues to wind down his tenure at The Walt Disney Company, the executive chairman recently had a word of caution for his fellow executives, according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kim Masters.


Masters reports that at an annual retreat for Disney executives in July, Iger told his subordinates: “in a world and business that is awash with data, it is tempting to use data to answer all of our questions, including creative questions. I urge all of you not to do that.” He added that had data been the controlling factor, such hits like Coco, Black Panther, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may never had been made.

Masters continued that rumors alleged that Iger’s successor, current Disney CEO Bob Chapek, followed up Iger’s address by saying that Disney has, in fact, become a data-driven company, though several sources denied that was the case.

The article chronicles Chapek’s struggles at the reins since taking over in February 2020, exacerbated by the seismic shifts in the entertainment landscape that have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, driving wedges between Disney and creative talent as films were pushed to Disney+, like Luca, or released simultaneously between theaters and the streaming service, like Black Widow, which was the center of a lawsuit filed against Disney by star Scarlett Johansson that was settled last week. A former Disney executive told Masters, “every creative person is leaving or losing power.”

These struggles have reportedly strained the relationship between Iger and Chapek, exacerbated by a story from The New York Times‘ Ben Smith last year that Iger had effectively reclaimed leadership in the company as the pandemic took hold. According to a source close to Iger, the article upset Chapek deeply, saying: “[Iger] forgot that as soon as he steps down as CEO, the gravity shifts to the new CEO. He miscalculated that because of his belief in his own mastery. [And] he thought Chapek would have a sense of fealty or duty. Instead, Chapek really resented the Ben Smith article. And he’s really not a collaborative person. He put his people in positions of power and marginalized Iger’s deputies.”

According to Masters, the plan to make Chapek CEO emerged in late 2019, after a years-long search for internal candidates. Insiders believed that then-Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs was expected to be named to the position prior to his departure in 2016, with sources claiming that Staggs learned that Chapek was actively undermining his candidacy.

Despite the reports of tension between him and Chapek, Iger continues to publicly support his successor, saying “He’s very different from me. That doesn’t mean he can’t do the job well. Give him time. It’s the only fair thing to do.”

For more of the corporate intrigue, we highly recommend checking out the full piece fromThe Hollywood Reporter.

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  1. This is obvious when he goes on making public announcements about how much Disney made last quarter. Things like this need to be in the background where we think Disney magic rather than Disney profited. We know you did you don’t need to brag about it.

  2. Ugh, both have been terrible leaders at the Disney company. Bring back Eisner! More importantly, bring back the Disney family to the company’s Board!

    1. I literally almost posted that! He really held the Walt ideals for sure! I could not agree more!

      1. Put a Disney back in charge who is like Walt for ideas, Roy for the money side and Lillian to keep things on a even keel. And remember the saying ” WHAT WOULD WALT DO !!!!! “

    2. I don’t know that I agree entirely. I think Iger was a great blend of business and creativity. I don’t think he was perfect but I do think he was much better than Eisner. I would also like to see the Disney family involved again.

  3. It’s apparent that guests are not front and center in current decision making. Chapel raves about the great success of park passes. Here to stay! Except it creates huge dilemmas for park hopping guests (which is an extra cost of course). Allows entry to 2nd park only after 2pm. And if you purchase a dinner package at 2nd park you run risk of park too full and not open to hopping entry. I was told to go to park w dinner package first. Leave fir 2 pm. Entry at 2nd park the go back to dinner park. Way big waste of travel time. Left about 1 hour to hop in 2nd park. This is a success? Not for guests.

    1. Disney has the data on how often and when people hop. They either don’t care or it doesn’t affect a large enough majority of guests.

  4. I feel like this is more the Disney Board for choosing Chapek. Also, where are they getting this data from? Who asked for paid fastpasses and parking fees at the resorts? Who asked for Moana in every show? Who asked to reskin Splash Mountain.

    The data is bad lol

    1. I think you’re looking at “Data” the wrong way. It’s not about whether or not people asked for it, it’s about looking at the data for whether or not up charging will hurt profits by making enough people mad. Clearly Disney hasn’t found the ceiling for how much they can charge for a lesser experience. Until guests finally fight back by not buying tickets, they’ll keep raising prices and cutting back on guest experience.

      I just got back from a trip last week, and it was the least fun I’ve ever had at Disney, and the most expensive it’s ever been. They have priced themselves out of the market for me. I won’t be going back for a while. Next time I need a theme park fix, I’ll get an annual pass to universal for less than 3 days at Disney.

    2. When are DIS fans going to get over attractions being updated once every 20 years? Walt himself wanted the park and attractions to change and evolve. Splash is based on a decades old bad movie Song of the South. Time for a change and honestly a Disney Original animated film that had great critcal acclaim w fans and great music is perfect. I love the idea of Princess and the Frog being the center focus of the retheming. New characters are going to be in shows…confused why adding new characters, especially a princess, bothers you. Lol like why wouldn’t they do that?! I love them adding new Disney film characters to shows and most people do too. Scratching my head on fast pass/lightning/Genie system and nickle and diming people on parking – so I agree w u there. Further, how tone deaf of Disney to terminate magical express effective 1-1-2022?! Families w small kids, especially the majority requiring car seat/booster seats, makes it extremely difficult to use the ride share services that they are throwing us into the throngs of. Just terrible. Went from worth the price overall to even die hard family like myself, to us questioning going so often due to the additional effort, time, and stress and cancellation of convenience in the magical express.

  5. We need another “Save Disney” campaign like the one Roy E Disney did in the 80’s and 2000’s. Maybe get his daughter Abigail to lead the charge. She’s got a good head on her shoulders.

  6. Can’t say I ever loved Iger, but he was significantly better than the current CEO – and that’s saying a lot as Iger started the IP-everything. This guy has not only continued that, but doubled-down on it removing anything that is not Disney IP. Tos in higher prices, pay-per-ride, plus additional daily fees on top of admission, and cost cuts (excuse of ‘covid’), a lackluster 50th anniversary celebration and this guy should be gone as he’s removed nearly all ‘magic’ from what was the most magical place. Sad at best. Fire this guy.

  7. Ugh! Iger did such a better job! Paycheck Chapek is so greedy!!! I hate the new Disney! You can see how much it changed over the last year or two! I’m so disappointed in Disney but it’s really paycheck Chapek!!! 😡

  8. That’s rich coming from Iger warning about not to tie creative decisions based on the data. He’s the one who taught everyone to rely on the data to make decisions to give him cover for anything he wanted to do. He’s just better at selecting the right data to support any decisions that he made with previous data. Corporate Disney is a burecracy which loves data for decision making so the “leaders” can always blame data when something doesn’t work out the way they wanted it to.

  9. …“in a world and business that is awash with data, it is tempting to use data to answer all of our questions, including creative questions. I urge all of you not to do that.” Ok. This is very simple. Customers drive data. That’s you and me. What this says, without directly saying it, is that Disney DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHAT THE CUSTOMER WANTS! PERIOD. Look at some of the recent changes. Charging for FP, resort parking fees, end of Magical Express, park reservations, park hopping, etc. I could go on but these are all NEGATIVES for the customer. That’s you and me. And until we all say ENOUGH, they’ll keep going. This is not the end by far. Question is, where will you draw the line. I’ve already done it. I cancelled my D+, cancelled my DCL reservation until they remove all restrictions and are pretty much done with the parks. Yes, I agree with the comments that leadership has gone from bad to worse. I don’t see it getting any better for us, the customers.

  10. really? the new woke cheapact d minus amoro business model is not data driven, it is twitter driven by a bunch of twits.

  11. I’m presuming this will be the full 2 hours of News Tonight tonight, unless Tom wants to do a Perfect Strangers opening followed by a show back in a radio studio.

  12. It’s the job of the Board of Directors, as led by the Chair of the Board, to decide when it’s time to replace the CEO. Publicly, Iger has not lost faith in Chapek, but hopefully Iger and the board in general don’t wait for too much more to go wrong before making a leadership change.

    Disney needs creative people producing great products to restore their luster as a great product. And hopefully the tourism products won’t just be seen as a source of revenue and marketing for Disney+, ESPN, and the movie studio.

  13. What needs to be done is to go back to Walt’s basics the guest comes first not how much profit you can make or how many locations you can build. When you take about every dime from a family who spent most of their savings on one trip you will not see them again when the fun is gone. For you investors what are you going to do when most folks stop coming and only the people who have money to burn come, you will be up a creek without a paddle! And you on the board of directors start using you brains and go by ” what would Walt want ” and there needs to be a half a dozen or more Disney family members on the board who think like Walt or Roy! The leadership who brought this mess on need to be fired & people who want the Disney company back the way it was needs to be hired & put in charged. I said my piece think hard & do what is right to preserve Walt’s, Roy’s & Lillian’s Legacy!!!!!

  14. So much has changed at Disney in just 2 short years, and non of it for the better. The company may see temporary gains in revenue with increased rates and new fees (charging for fast passes and resort parking?), but they are sacrificing long-term growth and customer experience. It will catch up with them. Our passes expire in May and we will not be renewing for the first time in a decade. It hurts, but it’s no longer worth it and I can’t continue to support bad behavior.

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