Bob Chapek Calls Time as Disney CEO ‘Three Years of Hell’

Shannen Ace

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Bob Chapek and Bob Iger

Bob Chapek Calls Time as Disney CEO ‘Three Years of Hell’

A new report from CNBC chronicles Bob Iger’s retirement and Bob Chapek’s tenure as The Walt Disney Company’s CEO, leading to Iger taking the role back in November 2022. The full story includes office showers, a hippo, references to “Mean Girls” starring Lindsey Lohan, and references to “The Eiger Sanction” starring Clint Eastwood, but a stand-out quote is Chapek reportedly referring to his approximately three years at the company’s head as “hell.”

Bob Chapek
Image source: Deadline

CNBC spoke to more than 25 people who worked closely with Iger and Chapek at Disney between 2020 and 2022. Chapek issued the following statement to CNBC through a spokesperson:

Bob is proud of the work he did in the course of his 30-year career at Disney, particularly during his nearly three-year run as CEO, steering the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, and setting the course for business transformation as he and his team took the disruptive yet necessary steps for business revitalization and long-term growth.

Chapek confided to a friend that his time as CEO of Disney was “about three years of hell,” overshadowed by the fear that Iger wanted his job back.

Iger declined to comment for CNBC’s story.

Bob Iger Layoffs March 2023 1

Iger originally announced his retirement as CEO in February 2020 and announced Chapek — then Chairman of Disney Parks — would be his successor. Iger ultimately stayed on as Executive Chairman for almost two more years, still handling some CEO responsibilities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tensions between Chapek and Iger were reportedly high from the beginning of this relationship; Sherman’s report also included an anecdote about Chapek skipping the D23 event at which he had originally been scheduled to appear to make good on a late and reluctant invitation from Iger to his going-away party at his Brentwood home. Iger thanked dozens of people in his speech that evening, but did not thank Chapek, who later said it was humiliating, though he felt “relieved that the tension was out in the open.”

According to CNBC, the Disney board suggested Chapek take over Iger’s expansive office, but Iger loved the office’s private shower and wasn’t interested in moving. The Bobs “agreed” that Iger could stay and Chapek moved into a smaller office on the same floor.

CNBC also describes two framed posters in Iger’s office. One was a framed collage of newspapers and magazines celebrating Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Marvel in 2009. The other was a parody of “The Eiger Sanction,” turning the Eastwood film into “The Iger Sanction.”

“The Eiger Sanction,” as CNBC describes, is “about an assassin who comes out of retirement for one last job.”

Though Iger chose Chapek as his successor, he apparently regretted the decision, hence his return to the position as CEO. CNBC quotes Iger’s autobiography, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” when he described former CEO Michael Eisner’s relationship with Michael Ovitz:

When the two people at the top of a company have a dysfunctional relationship, there’s no way that the rest of the company beneath them can be functional. It’s like having two parents who fight all the time.

Christine McCarthy
REUTERS/Mike Blake

CNBC also covers former CFO Christine McCarthy going behind Chapek’s back to bring Iger back, including a tense board meeting when McCarthy shared numbers and forecasts that she didn’t discuss with Chapek beforehand.

McCarthy also declined to comment. She stepped down earlier this summer.

Chapek reportedly began to refer to McCarthy, Chief Communications Officer Kristina Schake, and EVP of Investor Relations Alexia S. Quadrani as the “mean girls.” He called people who had a negative view of Disney’s future as “Eeyores.”

Another story, about Disney’s 2022 management retreat, sees Chapek skipping strategy sessions to try to show his personable side to other employees. Executives grew frustrated when they found out Chapek was out petting a hippopotamus while they worked.

Though Iger originally returned with a two-year contract, it was extended into 2026. Disney has reportedly contacted former executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs as possible CEO replacements. Iger passed over both previously. But the future of Disney remains unclear.

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