The Walt Disney Company (DIS) CEO Bob Chapek and his predecessor Bob Iger more than doubled their salaries in 2021, according to a filing made by the company on Jan. 19, 2022. Their wage increases occurred during a year in which the company's business—several parts of which had shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—made a halting recovery.
Both Chapek and Iger had taken significant cuts to their salary at the start of the pandemic. Iger had forgone his salary, starting April 2020, for the remainder of the fiscal year, while Chapek took a 50% pay cut for the same period.
- Disney CEO Bob Chapek and his predecessor Bob Iger more than doubled their salaries in 2021.
- Chapek earned $32.5 million, while Iger took home $45.9 million.
- Chapek was steering Disney through a difficult and trying time in its business, when the pandemic completely shut down parts of its business.
Former CEO Iger, who led the company for 15 years and retired at the end of 2021, earned $45.9 million in 2021, up from the $21 million he earned in 2020. His base salary was $3 million, and he earned a cash bonus of $22.9 million. The company gave him $18.8 million in stock options and awards as well as $1.2 million in other compensation.
Iger's successor Bob Chapek also had a financially lucrative 2021 and took home $32.5 million, up from $14.2 million in 2020. His base salary was $2.5 million. Included in Chapek's earnings was a bonus of $14.3 million and $13.9 million in stock options and awards.
A Generous Paymaster
As The Wall Street Journal points out, Disney has always been one of the highest paymasters in the corporate world. Michael Eisner, who was chief executive of the company from 1984 to 2005, set a record for executive compensation in 1993 with a salary of $203.1 million. His successor Bob Iger earned $47.5 million in 2019. In that sense, the salary statistics released yesterday are a return to pre-pandemic times, when the entertainment behemoth's business was doing well and raking in cash from multiple profit centers.
But the pandemic has wrought permanent changes to the company's business model. Streaming services have become an important part of content distribution strategy and may be eating into overall profits for the company's theatrical releases. In an era of rapid COVID transmission and intermittent closures, the company's theme parks around the world have changed their operational protocols to minimize crowds.
Under the new CEO, Disney is focused on growing its streaming business. While it was launched under Bob Iger, Disney Plus has thrived under Chapek's direction, reaching 100 million subscribers 16 months after launch. The company plans to reach between 230 million and 260 million subscribers for the streaming service by 2024. The theme parks division has returned to profitability, and except for a major hiccup with Marvel’s Black Widow, Disney topped the box-office in 2021, pandemic notwithstanding.
"Mr. Chapek, as Chief Executive Officer, delivered strong performance given the unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and meaningful shareholder value, driven by exceptional execution of the Company's key strategic initiatives," Disney stated in its filing.