In an abrupt move, Disney CEO Bob Iger departs after 15 years

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Bob Iger’s departure was such a long time coming that it feels
like it came out of nowhere.

On Tuesday, the long-time chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Co. announced he is stepping down after 15 years at the helm—and after multiple, empty threats of stepping down. He is being replaced, immediately, by Bob Chapek, a 27-year veteran of the company whose last position was heading up Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division. Iger will stay on as chairman of the board until his contract expires at the end of 2021.

But the abruptness of the transition was sudden, and took
many in the industry by surprise, especially given Iger’s long and popular tenure.
Since 2005, the year that Iger took over as CEO of Disney, profits have grown
more than 300%. Disney’s shares, meanwhile, have jumped more than 400% in that
same time period.

Iger made many bold moves at Disney, which paved the way for an era of revenue and profit growth, not to mention creative success, at the Mouse House. His first big bet was buying animation studio Pixar in 2006, a $7.4 billion deal. That was followed by the acquisitions of Marvel Entertainment and Star Wars maker Lucasfilm for $2.4 billion and $4 billion, respectively. More recently, Iger’s bets have included last year’s whopping $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox and the launch of Disney’s own streaming service, Disney+, in November 2019.

The integration of Fox and the ramp up of Disney+ are still big question marks for the company, though early signs bode well for Disney. But Iger is convinced he is leaving the company on solid ground: “With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement released by Disney on Tuesday. “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the Company’s creative endeavors.”

More must-read stories from Fortune:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about winning back public trust
—Does the co-CEO model actually work?
Should CEOs stay on the board after they step down?
—What happens to a company’s stock when there’s turnover at the top
—2019 was the year of the CEO exodus

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