Earlier today, the Walt Disney Company Board of Directors elected Susan Arnold as Chairman of the Board. Arnold’s election will be effective December 31, 2021, when Bob Iger formally steps down as chairman – a position he has held since 2012.
Iger has been gradually removing himself from active management within Disney. He resigned as CEO in February 2020 after holding the position for 15 years, passing the torch to Bob Chapek. Since then, Iger has been serving as executive chairman, with an official focus on creative endeavors, though in practice he has been pressed into action keeping the company moving forward in the face of the COVID pandemic. Prior to being Disney’s CEO, Iger held several top roles at both Disney and ABC.
As Disney’s CEO, Iger expanded on the company’s high standard of storytelling with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012), and 21st Century Fox (2019). Iger oversaw the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016. Most recently, Iger made Disney an industry leader in direct-to-consumer technology with the launch of the Disney+ streaming service in 2019.
Susan Arnold has been a member of Disney’s Board of Directors for 14 years – by far the longest-serving Disney board member. She has served as independent Lead Director since 2018.
According to BusinessWire, “Ms. Arnold brings to her role extensive public-company board experience and in-depth knowledge of brand management and marketing, environmental sustainability, product and business development, international consumer markets, finance, and executive and risk management. She was formerly an operating executive of the equity investment firm The Carlyle Group, where she served from 2013 to 2021. Previously, she served as President—Global Business Units of Procter & Gamble from 2007 to 2009. Prior to that at Procter & Gamble, Ms. Arnold was Vice Chair—Beauty & Health from 2006, Vice Chair—Beauty from 2004, and President—Global Personal Beauty Care & Global Feminine Care from 2002. She was a Director of McDonald’s Corp. from 2008 to 2016, and a Director of NBTY, Inc. from 2013 to 2017.”
Iger had glowing praise for Arnold, offering the following words:
“Susan is an incredibly esteemed executive whose wealth of experience, unwavering integrity, and expert judgment have been invaluable to the Company since she first joined the Board in 2007. Having most recently served as independent Lead Director, Susan is the perfect choice for Chairman of the Board, and I am confident the Company is well-positioned for continued success under her guidance and leadership. It has been a distinct honor to work with Susan and our many other talented directors, and I am incredibly grateful for the support and wise counsel they have provided during my tenure.”
Arnold was equally effusive in her praise for Iger, stating:
“On behalf of the Board, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Bob Iger for his extraordinary leadership over the past decade-and-a-half. Bob has led Disney to amazing heights both creatively and financially, with his clear strategic vision for delivering high-quality branded storytelling, embracing cutting-edge technology, and expanding internationally, and he’s left an indelible mark on The Walt Disney Company that will be felt for generations to come. 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.”
It had been expected that Chapek would be named Chairman of the Board, much like Iger was in 2012. The fact that Chapek was passed over for the Chairman position could be perceived as a potential lack of confidence in the current CEO. The social media court of public opinion has repeatedly criticized Chapek for budget cuts, layoffs, “nickel-and-diming”, and a lack of creativity that have been a hallmark of his regime, going back to his days as the head of the theme parks division, and now as CEO.
Chapek has been involved is a host of recent controversial topics, including the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit against the company, the dreadful reception of the Genie+ and Lightning Lane systems announced in August, and the ongoing transition of Imagineering from California to Florida, resulting in the loss of many successful and well established creative employees. Thousands of Disney fans have even signed a petition to remove Chapek as CEO.
Ms. Arnold’s first official day as Chairman of the Board will be January 1, 2022.
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