Disney CEO Bob Iger, who steered the company through successful purchases of Star Wars, Marvel and Fox’s entertainment businesses, is stepping down immediately, the company said in a surprise announcement Tuesday.
The Walt Disney Company replaced him with Bob Chapek, who was until recently, the chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.
Iger will remain executive chairman through the end of his contract Dec. 31, 2021.
Iger said it was an “optimal time” for him to step down following Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets and the launch of Disney Plus streaming service in November.
“Did not see this coming — Wowza,” tweeted LightShed media analyst Rich Greenfield.
Iger became chief executive of the home of Mickey Mouse in 2005 after a shareholder revolt by Roy E. Disney led to the ouster of longtime chief Michael Eisner. Iger steered Disney through successful acquisitions of Lucasfilms, Marvel, Pixar and other brands that became big moneymakers for Disney.
He was the No. 2 highest paid CEO in 2018, as calculated by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm. He earned $65.6 million. The top earner was Discovery’s David Zaslav who earned $129.5 million.
Susan Arnold, the independent lead director of the Disney board said succession planning had been ongoing for several years.
Chapek is only the seventh CEO in Disney history.
Chapek was head of the parks, experiences and products division since it was created in 2018. Before that he was chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts since 2015.
Before that, he was president of the Disney Consumer Products segment from 2011 to 2015.