Rewriting the History of Covid Disney

Rewriting the History of Covid Disney

The business news world is all abuzz today over an article in Business Insider that claims that Bob Iger is trash-talking Bob Chapek.  Anybody who is genuinely familiar with the inner workings of Disney these past couple of years would have to be startled by the portrayal of some of the events listed in this article. Because they have only the most tangential connections to reality. 

The original is behind a paywall but everyone is copying it.  Here is the NY Post’s version, it isn’t too different from the Business Insider’s version.  NY Post’s selections are in boldface, my comments are italicized.

“Ex-Disney boss Bob Iger is still reportedly unhappy about the way the Mouse House handled his exit and considers naming current CEO Bob Chapek as his successor one of his ‘worst business decisions.’”

That tells you right there that this article is going to be a work of half-fiction.  Iger is undoubtedly unhappy about Chapek having his old job, but he did NOT name him as his successor.  

Chapek was appointed by the Board of Directors without any input from Iger at all.

“While the succession plan called for Chapek to report to both Iger and the Iger-led Disney board, their relationship soured quickly. The two executives reportedly disagreed on several key elements of Disney’s business — including how the company should be structured internally, its handling of political matters its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The dysfunction was so significant that Iger and Chapek had their own advisory teams that occasionally competed, according to the report, which cited Disney sources and people familiar with Iger’s thinking.”

So, there was a civil war going on at Disney between Iger and Chapek.  

I was right all along. 

Iger quickly chafed at Chapek’s leadership style and reportedly found his successor to be a “novice” in responding to talent management concerns and politics-adjacent disputes — such as the company’s infamous contract dispute with “Black Widow” actress Scarlett Johansson and its clash with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the GOP-backed “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Iger also purportedly viewed Chapek as “arrogant and uninterested in other people’s opinions.”

Disney executives who were “deeply loyal” to Iger found his selection of Chapek to be “confusing,” according to one former executive.

These are some intriguing paragraphs both for what they say and don’t quite say.  The original article didn’t say “purportedly” it said, “insiders familiar with Iger’s thinking.”  Who were these insiders that were so concerned and confused about Hollywood talent management?

Clearly someone from the Entertainment division.  No one from Parks would have cared how much Scarjo was stamping her pretty little feet. And the tone of contempt indicates that whoever they talked to, is someone who has it in for Bob Chapek.  

And there is a lot of half lies getting thrown at you as fast as possible.

The contract dispute with Scarjo is being presented as a bungle by Chapek when it was in fact a win for the CEO.   Johannsson backed down pretty quickly, settled, and was a good little girl after that.  The whole dispute was, in my opinion (and I’m not alone in thinking this) a plot hatched by Iger, Feige, and Bryan Lourd to get Chapek kicked out and Iger reinstalled as CEO.

When Iger stepped down as CEO in February 2020 “effective immediately,” tensions between him and Chapek were already running high. The board had expected Iger to remain as CEO through the end of that year.

“It was Bob Iger’s desire to move the timeline up — and if COVID hadn’t happened, none of the stuff between [him and Bob Chapek] would have transpired,” a Disney executive said.

Well, that last line is true. If it hadn’t been for COVID Iger would never have had a chance to try and horn his way back into the CEO’s suite. 

The big thing this article misses is the disaster of the Fox deal.  $70 billion was insanely overpriced for the Fox studio.  Having anyone as both chairman of the BOD and CEO is absolutely terrible for corporate governance.  It gave Iger far too much freedom to make this kind of insane acquisition.  That is what did him in with the institutional investors.  And that was why Susan Arnold was designated as Iger’s executioner on the Disney board.

The discord continued even after Iger formally exited his role as executive chairman. 

When Disney faced criticism for remaining silent over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, Iger publicly contradicted his replacement — noting on Feb. 24 that he agreed with President Biden’s stance that it was a “hateful bill.”

Keep in mind this article is from the “conservative” New York Post. At least the Business Insider article summoned the minimum of professionalism needed to insert a “so-called” in front of “Don’t Say Gay.”

While I don’t enjoy defending Chapek, he was the one trying to keep Disney neutral. The disaster wasn’t refusing to fight the Anti-Groomer Law, it was in joining the fight against it.  That was what led to the Reedy Creek dissolution.  

Disney’s missteps prompted widespread speculation that Chapek could be ousted as CEO – with some floating the possibility that Iger could return to replace him.

I don’t know of anyone of real importance who was speculating about this except for some people on Twitter.  There were middle management types at Disney Entertainment who wanted the usurper from Disney Parks banished from the Golden Mouse Throne and replaced by anyone from the Entertainment Division.

Mind you I do remember being surprised that Peter Rice had actually broken his NDA with Disney while an executive at the company to publicly challenge Chapek’s policy of neutrality.   That was the point where I knew it was going to be him or Chapek.

“Early on, there was lots of questions and negativity around [Iger] as well. I would put some of this in the category of the transition of one CEO to the next,” the source said.

Somebody asked Michael Eisner his opinion about this.

Whenever you see what is clearly, a commissioned hit piece, there are two things to keep in mind.  First, the content is going to be a pile of crap. Second, you need to ask yourself, what is the purpose of this article?  What is it trying to accomplish? And who is trying to accomplish it?

If it had come out two months ago, then its purpose would have been the ouster of Bob Chapek.  But New Bob just got a three-year renewal as CEO with a gigantic raise attached.  Old Bob is firmly in the review mirror and with the firing of Peter Rice, the most likely heir-apparent has been executed.  Unless someone buys Disney, Chapek is bulletproof.

So, what was the point? 

Sour grapes.  That was the entire point of it.  But whose sour grapes?  While Iger ain’t happy there are too many “sources close to” quotes for this to be from him, (at least primarily).  My own guess is that it was someone from the entertainment division.  Someone who is deeply invested in all the Woke that Chapek has now bulldozing. And someone who was recently given a very high-profile firing.

Okay, I’m done here.

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