Performance reviews can be anxiety-inducing for anyone. Especially when you’ve just stepped into the impossibly large shoes left by a beloved and successful predecessor.
That’s essentially what Disney CEO Bob Chapek is facing this week, as Disney kicks off a two-day board meeting spanning Monday and Tuesday after a not-so-storybook start to Chapek’s tenure. With his contract ending next February and yet to be renewed, the gathering comes at a critical juncture for the leader of the House of Mouse.
The Circle of Corporate Life
Chapek’s run as CEO began in 2020, though his predecessor Bob Iger — whose legendary fifteen-year stint saw Disney acquire Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox, as well as the uber-successful launch of streaming service Disney+ — stayed on as Chair Emeritus until the start of this year. Which, coincidentally, kicked off a season of bumpy sailing.
In April, the company lost its long-held special tax status in Florida after Chapek — at the behest and urging of employees — publicly challenged Governor Ron DeSantis’ controversial hard-right politics. The fallout of the high-profile clash fueled speculation Iger may reclaim his throne. And last month, Chapek unceremoniously fired top TV executive Peter Rice, who outsiders pegged as one of his few possible in-house replacements
That’s all just a prelude to the ups and downs Chapek has faced in recent days:
- The downs: Even as the city itself emerges from a strict Covid lockdown, Disney has opted to keep its Shanghai Disneyland park closed down as executives fear a contact-traced infection could lead to a strict and disruptive government-mandated closure, sources told The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile at the box office, Toy Story-spinoff Lightyear is threatening to become one of the year’s first big bombs — even as new Top Gun and Jurassic World installments have audiences flocking back to theaters.
- The ups: Disney Wish, the company’s latest cruise ship, is set for a christening celebration on Wednesday before a maiden voyage in July. The recent Star Wars show Obi-Wan Kenobi garnered the largest debut in Disney+ history, the company said, and this winter will see the theatrical release of two long-awaited sequels to billion-dollar Oscar-nominated hits — Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar 2: The Way of the Water.
Confidence, Man: Disney’s board did grant Chapek a vote of confidence about three weeks ago, though it apparently isn’t confident enough to renew his contract just yet. And recent reports from Fortune paints a changing culture in Disney that’s roiling insiders — one that favors quantity and quick profits over quality and building long-term fan loyalty. Don’t expect fireworks out of this week’s big meeting, though we wouldn’t be half-surprised if Chapek broke into a stereotypical Disney villain musical number.