© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An exhibit shows the logo and symbol of The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, US, December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Old Walt Disney (NYSE: ) Co Chief Executive Bob Iger is returning to the media company as CEO less than a year after retiring, in a surprise move as the entertainment company struggles to turn its media presence into a profitable business.
Iger, who retired last year after 15 years as chief executive, has agreed to serve as CEO for two more years, Disney said in a statement on Sunday. He will succeed Bob Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in February 2020.
While Chapek led Disney through the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney disappointed investors this month with a financial report that showed continued losses at its media division that includes Disney+.
“The board recognizes that Disney is entering a critical period of transformation for the company, and Bob Iger has the responsibility to lead the company through this important period,” said Susan Arnold, Disney’s chairman.
In June, Disney’s board voted unanimously to extend Chapek’s contract for three years.
Throughout Chapek’s short tenure, Disney was embroiled in an internal culture war after being accused of being silent on Florida laws that would limit classroom discussion about sex and sexuality.
Iger came out of Disney in a major event as the company led the game war against Netflix (NASDAQ: ) in the streaming wars. The recession and high interest rates have hurt Disney+ as the company prepares to cut costs even further.
“I’m an optimist, and if I’ve learned one thing in my years at Disney, it’s that even when I’m uncertain — perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty — our staff and Cast Members achieve the impossible,” Iger said. memo to staff seen by Reuters.
The change in leadership surprised employees, a company source said.