Disney (DIS) Board Elects Susan Arnold to Replace Bob Iger as Chair

Veteran board member to take over executive chair from former CEO

Call it the end of the Iger era. Former CEO and current chairman of The Walt Disney Company (DIS) board Bob Iger is stepping down from his role at the end of this month. He will be replaced by Susan Arnold—who has been member of the Disney board for 14 years—on Dec. 31, 2021.

In a statement released yesterday, Iger called Arnold "an incredibly esteemed executive whose wealth of experience, unwavering integrity, and expert judgment" had helped the board since she joined in 2007. Arnold said that Iger had left an "indelible mark" on the House of Mouse for generations.

Key Takeaways

  • Susan Arnold, a 14-year veteran of Disney's board, has been selected to replace Bob Iger as chairman of the board.
  • Former CEO Bob Iger had a successful tenure at Disney during which he oversaw profitable acquisitions and inauguration of new theme parks that became profit centers.
  • Susan Arnold will chair Disney's board at a time when the entertainment giant is attempting to reinvent itself as a digital company with new revenue streams.

An Expected Transition in Unexpected Times

Iger's departure at the end of this year was expected after his resignation last year as chief executive officer of the company he led for 15 years. During this time, he enjoyed the board's unstinted support as he transitioned Disney's business in a new direction. Iger oversaw the success of its Marvel franchise, made many acquisitions—including that of profit-generating animation studios and rival 21st Century Fox—and opened new versions and outposts of Disney theme parks.

Arnold has held executive positions at a range of companies, including private equity giant Carlyle Group Inc. and The Procter & Gamble Company (PG). She has her work cut out for her and will coordinate with CEO Bob Chapek to prepare Disney for an era dominated by streaming and new theme park experiences.

During the pandemic, the company's streaming offering Disney Plus racked up subscribers across the globe. But its growth has slowed in recent quarters even as it attempts to expand its repertoire of stories in the Marvel universe while weathering controversies. At the same time, the company has had to contend with a reinvention and shutdowns of its theme parks, a vital profit center, due to discovery of new COVID variants. 

"As I step into this new role as Chairman of the Board, I look forward to continuing to serve the long-term interests of Disney's shareholders and working closely with CEO Bob Chapek as he builds upon the company's century-long legacy of creative excellence and innovation," Arnold stated.

Many top Iger lieutenants are also leaving. Zenia Mucha, chief communications officer, and Alan Braverman, senior vice president, have already announced their retirement and will depart the entertainment behemoth at the end of this year.

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  1. Wall Street Journal. Disney Board Elects Susan Arnold, Replacing Bob Iger.

  2. The Hollywood Reporter. "Disney Names Susan Arnold As Chairman of Board."

  3. NPR. "Disneyland in Shanghai Is Shut Down."

  4. Bloomberg. "Two Senior Disney Executives Retiring as Bob Iger Era Ends."

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