Why Bob Iger's long goodbye to Disney is a very big deal


Bob Iger with 'Mickey Mouse' in 2017

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EPA

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Disney under Iger has been anything but a Mickey Mouse outfit

The news that Disney boss Bob Iger is stepping down as the company’s CEO has taken the movie world by surprise.

Since becoming chief executive in 2005, Iger led the company through several blockbuster acquisitions and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service.

Viewed by many to be the most powerful man in Hollywood, Iger had previously announced plans to retire only to push back his departure date.

Iger will remain Disney’s executive chairman until the end of 2021.

In a statement, the company said Iger would direct its “creative endeavours” while ensuring “a smooth and successful transition”.

Bob Chapek, who joined Disney in 1993 and previously ran the company’s parks and products division, has been appointed the company’s new CEO.

During Iger’s tenure as CEO, Disney took over animation studio Pixar, comic book company Marvel, Star Wars originator LucasFilm and Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

These acquisitions, combined with the launch of Disney+, amusement park openings and other factors, saw the company’s market value increase five-fold.

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Disney

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Disney+ launches in the UK on 24 March

Of the 20 highest-grossing films of the 2010s, 13 were Disney releases. Three of these titles made more than $2 billion (£1.54 billion) worldwide.

The most lucrative of the three, superhero blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, overtook 2009’s Avatar in July 2019 to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

Last year Iger published a memoir, titled The Ride of a Lifetime, in which he wrote about the lessons he had learned from his 15 years as Disney CEO.

While promoting his book he gave his only UK interview to BBC media editor Amol Rajan, during which he reflected on his experiences and accomplishments.

“It would be nice to know that it’s going to turn out as well as it has, because I probably would have been just a little bit more relaxed,” he mused when asked what advice he would offer his younger self.

“But then again if I had been a little bit more relaxed, I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard and it might not have turned out. So because you can’t go back and do it over in anyway, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Media captionBob Iger says he’s proud of his achievements at Disney

The 69-year-old also expressed pride about the number of jobs he said had been created at the Disney company during his time as CEO.

“I’m proud of our efforts for our employees – for cast members as we call them – around the world. Of which there are now about 230,000,” he said.

“There are tens of thousands more of them today, by the way, than they were when I got the job. So we’ve created a huge number of jobs. And for hourly workers.

“I am proud of their compensation. I’m proud of the benefits that we’ve bestowed upon them. I’m proud of the opportunities we’ve created for them.

“There’s been huge upward mobility in our company by the very people that start at the bottom – I’m one of them – and enable themselves to not only work their way up, but to work their way up and to earn more.”

In other departments, however, Iger did concede mistakes had been made.

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Getty Images

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Iger oversaw Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm in 2012

“I have said publicly that I think we made and released too many Star Wars films over a short period of time,” he told Amol Rajan.

“I have not said that they were disappointing in any way. I’ve not said that I’m disappointed in their performance.

“I just think that there’s something so special about a Star Wars film, and less is more.

“The nice thing about Star Wars is the future is unlimited in terms of the places we can go, the stories we can tell and the characters we can introduce people to,” Iger said during a subsequent visit to the UK for the European premiere of the most recent Star Wars film.

Last December’s event also saw him reveal that his favourite character from the long-running sci-fi film saga was Chewbacca the Wookiee.

“I’ve always been a ‘Chewie’ fan,” he told the BBC’s Colin Paterson. “I don’t understand a word he’s saying, but he always makes me laugh.”

No doubt Iger’s departure would have seen the character utter one of his trademark mournful moans.

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