Bog Iger’s Return to Disney Shocks a Discontented Kingdom

He added, “We do not necessarily believe that a lack of leadership is Disney’s problem, and think the change will ultimately make a true transition of power to Iger’s (next) successor even more difficult.”

There are senior executives at Disney who could be groomed into chief executive material, including Dana Walden, Disney’s television chief, and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman. But neither is quite ready, a person close to the board said.

Two previous candidates to succeed Mr. Iger, Thomas O. Staggs and Kevin Mayer, left Disney and are now running a media start-up. A person close to Disney’s board had reached out to them this year when Mr. Chapek’s contract renewal was under consideration. According to two people familiar with the matter, this person posed a hypothetical question: Would one or both be interested in returning to run Disney? Any deal to bring them back into the Disney fold would have required the company to acquire their start-up, Candle Media, a multibillion-dollar firm that owns Hello Sunshine, the media company founded by Reese Witherspoon, according to the people.

Mr. Staggs and Mr. Mayer demurred, the people said.

That left the board with only one serious option: Mr. Iger.

But he is not a long-term solution. At least a few board members believe they made an error with succession planning the last time — namely deciding that promoting from within was the only real choice. In announcing Mr. Iger’s return, the company said in a statement that he did so with a mandate to develop “a successor to lead the company at the completion of his term.”

Mr. Iger, who reached his deal with Disney on Sunday, has a compensation package that includes a base salary of $1 million, stock incentives expected to be worth $25 million annually and an annual bonus expected to be worth $1 million.

None of the big media companies have yet been able to figure out how to navigate past the collapse of cable television. Streaming services were once viewed as the solution, and still may be, but there has been a drastic shift over the last six months. The game is no longer about growing the number of global subscriptions at any cost; investors now want to see old-fashioned profit.


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