5 Theories on Thomas Staggs’ Abrupt Departure

An awkward pall hung over the April 4 premiere of Disney’s The Jungle Book reboot. Hours before CEO Bob Iger, 65, walked the red carpet in Hollywood, the company had revealed that his heir apparent, COO Thomas Staggs, 55, will step down. The move, which left many at the premiere shocked, threw a carefully choreographed succession plan into disarray as Iger’s contract expires in June 2018. Disney isn’t talking, but insiders and observers have theories.

Here are five:

1. Sheryl Sandberg wants the job

The Facebook COO has served on Disney’s board since 2009 and, according to some, has made it known she would like a CEO position that likely never will become available at Mark Zuckerberg’s company. While Sandberg, 46, lacks traditional Hollywood experience, she is savvy in digital media, which could be crucial as Disney faces a declining cable business.

2. Staggs lost the board

Some insiders say Disney board members ultimately believed Staggs, who came from the company’s parks division, lacks the creative experience in TV or film needed as CEO. “This would speak to the Disney board’s view of the importance of these businesses,” says Macquarie Group analyst Tim Nollen.

3. There’s an internal candidate

Many have focused on the possibility that Disney will look outside the company for a new leader (Chase Carey? Steve Burke?). But there are internal contenders, too. Bob Chapek, 57, who replaced Staggs atop the parks unit and once ran consumer products, is considered an Iger favorite, as is Ben Sherwood, promoted in 2015 from running ABC News to co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. Sherwood, 52, certainly has creative experience.

4. Staggs took the fall for Iger’s frustration

Running parks from 2010 to 2015, Staggs was the primary executive on Disney’s Shanghai resort, one of Iger’s key legacies. Disney and its China partners had planned to open the $5.5 billion park by the end of 2015, but they pushed it to June, when portions reportedly still will be unfinished. In addition, Disney’s parks division was the source of a major PR flap when it allegedly laid off 250 tech workers at its Orlando resorts in 2015 and replaced them with foreign workers using H-1B visas. Some of those laid off are suing, which is said to have enraged Iger.

5. Iger just wants to stay

It could be that simple. Iger’s post-Disney plan was set to include helping build an NFL stadium in Southern California for both the Raiders and Chargers, and he’d have an ownership stake in one. But the NFL rejected the proposal in favor of a rival plan, leaving Iger with one fewer option after he’s through running Disney.

From The Hollywood Reporter


Disney Chairman And CEO Bob Iger Says New ‘Indiana Jones’ Movie “Will Be Coming”

Indiana Jones

It can’t be underestimated how much change Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has brought to the company. During his tenure at the mouse house, the company has acquired Pixar, Marvel, and of course, Lucasfilm, and turned the movie studio into one of the most powerful in Hollywood. So needless to say, he had a lot to talk about when he sat down with Bloomberg for a half-hour conversation. And while much of the conversation was on the potential of “Star Wars,” the broader landscape of the company when it comes to television, theme parks, and more, there’s one little nugget that stood out.

Chatting about the what’s on the horizon for Lucasfilm properties, Iger talked about upcoming “Star Wars” sequels, adding, “and ‘Indiana Jones,’ by the way, which will be coming.”

Earlier this year, a 2018 release date was rumored for a potential new “Indiana Jones” movie, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have been pretty open about reuniting, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has also suggested the whip will be cracked again.

For now, it seems something that’s definitely being talked about in the halls of Disney, and hopefully more official word will arrive soon.

From The Playlist

Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger Enters ‘Broadcasting & Cable’ Hall of Fame

Bob Iger

For 25 years, the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame has served as a gold standard within the broadcast industry, honoring the outstanding individuals whose influence will continue to be felt for generations to come. We’re proud that this year—the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary—The Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger has joined this extraordinary group of pioneers, visionaries and stars of the electronic arts.

Mr. Iger, whose career began at ABC in 1974, was honored for his stewardship of The Walt Disney Company and his strategic vision focused on generating the best creative content possible, fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology and expanding into new markets around the world. Mr. Iger officially joined the Disney senior management team in 1996 as Chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group, where he oversaw the broadcast television network and station group, cable television properties, and radio and publishing businesses and also guided the complex merger between Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company. During Mr. Iger’s years with ABC, he obtained hands-on experience in every aspect of the television business—including news, sports, and entertainment—as well as in program acquisition, rights negotiations, and business affairs.

“I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do at a very early age—thanks to watching the nightly news every single night with my parents. And I decided I wanted to be Walter Cronkite,” Mr. Iger said at the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Awards last night in New York City. “I eventually grew out of that—somewhere during my fourth or fifth month as a weatherman in Ithaca, New York. After making it through one winter, I figured I’d had enough experience giving people bad news and shifted my career goals… smartly. But, I never outgrew my fascination for television—which remains such a powerful storytelling medium in the world, even in this era of such vast change.”

Disney Legend Frank Gifford, who passed away August 9, was also honored with Broadcasting & Cable’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “He was an exceptional man who is missed by everyone who had the joy of seeing his talent on the field, the pleasure of watching his broadcasts, or the honor of knowing him,” Mr. Iger said.

Nearly 400 professionals have been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame to date. The 2015 Hall of Fame class includes:

• Ed Carroll—COO, AMC Networks, Inc.

• Michael T. Fries—president and CEO, Liberty Global

• Don Garber—commissioner, Major League Soccer; CEO, Soccer United Marketing

• Chris Geraci—president of National Broadcast, OMD

• Kathie Lee Gifford—cohost, fourth hour of NBC’s Today

• Robert A. Iger—chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company

• Lou LaTorre—president, advertising sales, Fox Cable Networks (Retired)

• Alfred C. Liggins III—chairman and CEO, TV One

• Philip J. Lombardo—CEO, Citadel Communications Company, L.P.

• Dave Lougee—president, Tegna Media

• Dr. Phil McGraw—host and executive producer, Dr. Phil

• Donna Speciale—president, Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales

– See more at: https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/blog/disney-chairman-and-ceo-robert-iger-enters-%E2%80%98broadcasting-cable%E2%80%99-hall-fame#sthash.MlOQL4jW.dpuf

Disney to Launch Subscription Streaming Service in U.K.

Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story"


Disney is to launch next month a subscription streaming service in the U.K., which will offer its movies, television series, books and music direct to the consumer online.

The service, DisneyLife, will make available a wide range of titles, including the complete Pixar catalog, which includes the “Toy Story” franchise, and classics such as “Snow White,” “Lady and the Tramp” and “The Jungle Book,” the Financial Times reported Wednesday. DisneyLife will cost £9.99 ($15.43) a month.

“This is the future, in many respects,” said Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive. “We’re seeing more and more opportunities to reach consumers directly and not through middlemen, and we’re seeing consumers wanting product in different ways.”

Disney will roll out the service across Europe next year, with the aim of launching in France, Spain, Italy and Germany. There are no plans to launch the service in the U.S., but Iger would not rule it out. “The technology platform that this sits on is scalable to the U.S. and is scalable to our other brands,” he said. Netflix has pay TV window rights to Disney theatrical releases for the U.S., kicking in at the end of next year, and Canada, starting with 2015 theatrical releases.

New content will be added to DisneyLife as it becomes available. Movies produced by Marvel and the Lucasfilm “Star Wars” franchise will not be included, but “Star Wars” and Marvel subscription services could be launched in the future, Iger said.

Iger saw apps, not linear television, as the future. “There’s a general sense that the world is going in this direction,” he said. “There will be multichannel TV and we will be part of it, but the app experience offers many more layers (and) much more richness in content than a channel, where one program follows another program.”

He added: “There’s so much more texture to (using the app) and it takes advantage of what technology is enabling these days — whereas a linear channel doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with linear television but that’s one of the reasons why the app experience is going to grow.”

From Variety

Disney CEO Bob Iger to Be Inducted Into Toy Industry Hall of Fame

Bob Iger

Disney CEO Bob Iger will be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, the Toy Industry Assn. announced Wednesday. The group recognized the Disney chief executive for “significant contributions to the industry and the impact his work has had on the lives of children worldwide.”

The honor makes Iger one of 70 recognized by the trade association, including “Muppets” creator Jim Henson and “Star Wars” godfather George Lucas. The Hall was created in 1984 and Iger will become the newest member on Feb. 12, when the association holds its annual Toy of the Year awards celebration at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The organization cited Iger for running the world’s largest media company and creating “adored brands around the globe.” Disney already had many winning franchises, but expanded them markedly with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009) and Lucasfilm (2012), the association noted. The group said that Iger has also assured Disney’s toys were available across multiple platforms.

“Just about every child around the globe has been touched by the magic of Disney,” said Toy Industry Assn. CEO Steve Pasierb. “Mr. Iger has done an impressive job of building on Disney’s rich history and growing their storytelling portfolio, creating new experiences and unforgettable memories for generations of kids to come.”

From James Rainey of Variety

Bob Iger Issues Statement on Passing of Disney Legend Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford ABC

Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, has issued the following statement on his passing:

“Frank Gifford was an exceptional man who will be missed by everyone who had the joy of seeing his talent on the field, the pleasure of watching his broadcasts, or the honor of knowing him. His many achievements were defined by a quiet dignity and a personal grace that is seldom seen in any arena; he truly embodied the very best of us. Frank’s contributions to ABCSports and our company are immeasurable. We are honored to call him a Disney Legend and I am very fortunate to have called him a dear friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

Gifford was with the New York Giants 1952-60, 1962- 64, missing one year because of an injury. He won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1956 and left the Giants with all-time records for touchdowns, 78, and yards gained in pass receiving. He became a part-time broadcaster for CBS in 1957, went full-time in 1965, and moved to ABC in 1971. He was on ABC’s MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and Wide World of Sports. Gifford received the Emmy Award for sports commentary in 1971 and the Christopher Award in 1974. He was elected to the COLLEGE FOOTBALL Hall of Fame in 1975, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. The NFL Alumni group gave him its Achievement Award in 1985. Gifford served as chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York. The society in 1984 established a $100,000 grant for research in his name. Gifford wrote four books, of which the best known are “Gifford on Courage” and “The Whole Ten Yards.”

Shanghai Disneyland Themed Lands to Include New Attractions and Live Shows

Just a few minutes ago in China, Disney chairman and CEO, Bob Iger unveiled new, exciting details on Shanghai Disney Resort, the area’s first Disney destination, and the six themed lands planned for the Shanghai Disneyland theme park.

Shanghai Disney Resort will be a world-class family entertainment destination that blends the magic of Disney and the cultural spirit and beauty of China. And during a special event that included Disney COO Tom Staggs and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek, Bob Iger shared a peek at what the Resort will look like with the unveiling of a spectacular scale model showcasing its two hotels, Disneytown – its international shopping, dining and entertainment district, Wishing Star Park’s beautiful gardens and six themed lands of mainland China’s first Disney theme park – Shanghai Disneyland.

“We are building something truly special here in Shanghai that not only showcases the best of Disney’s storytelling but also celebrates and incorporates China’s incredibly rich heritage to create a one-of-a-kind destination that will delight and entertain the people of China for generations to come,” said Iger speaking to media during today’s presentation at the Shanghai Expo Centre. “We are taking everything we’ve learned from our six decades of exceeding expectations – along with our relentless innovation and famous creativity to create a truly magical place that is both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.”

At Shanghai Disneyland, Disney stories will come to life at the tallest, largest and most interactive castle at any Disney theme park. The themed lands will offer something for everyone with live stage productions, world premieres and thrilling attractions ­­– many never seen before – that will appeal to guests of all generations. Guests also will be able to experience Disney characters in each land, including Mickey and his pals on Mickey Avenue and in Gardens of Imagination.

In Tomorrowland, one of the six themed lands, guests will be able to experience the TRON Lightcycle Power Run, a new coaster-style attraction where riders board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles for one of the most thrilling adventures at any Disney park.

Along with Tomorrowland, we have a more detailed look at the lands coming to Shanghai Disneyland:

Fantasyland will be the largest land and home to the majestic Enchanted Storybook Castle that we’ve already featured here on the Blog. In this fairy-tale paradise, guests will float through familiar Disney stories on Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, hitch a rollicking ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and take flight over the skies of London on Peter Pan’s Flight. They may also explore the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh or follow Alice through a dazzling Wonderland maze.

Treasure Cove – will be the first pirate-themed land in a Disney park. As guests explore this pirate world, they will enter Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, an attraction that transforms a boat ride into a thrilling journey with cutting-edge innovations in robotics, animation, set design and multimedia. Adventurous spirits will be tempted to board a pirate ship, paddle through the scenic cove on Explorer Canoes and dine at Barbossa’s Bounty.

Adventure Isle will immerse guests in a newly discovered lost world, filled with hidden treasures and a chance to explore its mysteries. The mighty Roaring Mountain will tower over guests and beckon them on their journey. Guests can blaze their own trails at Camp Discovery, travel around the world on Soaring over the Horizon, or embark on the thrilling rafting adventure Roaring Rapids, straight through the heart of Adventure Isle. There they discover the underworld realm of a mysterious, fearsome creature.

Tomorrowland will not only include the TRON Lightcycle Power Run but also offer the chance for guests to go to infinity and beyond on Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, a new space ranger adventure, or break the bonds of gravity on Jet Packs. The land will feature a massive, color-shifting canopy near the TRON Lightcycle Power Run.

Mickey Avenue will be the first main entry at a Disney park inspired by the colorful personalities of Mickey Mouse and his pals. In the neighborhoods of this welcoming, whimsical avenue, guests will share a hug and get a photo with some all-time favorite Disney characters. Avenue M Arcade, one of the many shops along the avenue, will feature the largest selection of gifts and collectibles inside the theme park.

Gardens of Imagination will celebrate the wonders of nature and the joy of imagination, as guests leave everyday life behind to enjoy the seven whimsical gardens. Guests will take a spin on the Fantasia Carousel, soar on the back of Dumbo the Flying Elephant and enjoy the area’s iconic Disney entertainment, including Castle stage shows and “Ignite the Dream, a Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light.” From several places in this land, guests will enjoy “Mickey’s Storybook Express,” an exciting parade with its own musical soundtrack and colorful performers on the longest parade route in a Disney park.

Since breaking ground in 2011, Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group announced that they were expanding the park by adding additional attractions and entertainment to allow more guests to have a spectacular Disney experience at Grand Opening in spring of 2016. Stay tuned for more updates on Shanghai Disney Resort.

Disney CEO Succession Path Cleared as CFO Jay Rasulo Resigns


The Walt Disney Co. said Monday that its chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo, will resign at the end of June, clearing the path for another top executive, Tom Staggs, to succeed Bob Iger as eventual CEO.

A new chief financial officer was not immediately named Monday, but Rasulo, 59, will serve as an adviser to assist in the transition.

“Jay has been a valued colleague and friend, as well as a vital contributor to Disney’s success,” Iger said in a statement.

Barton Crockett, a media company analyst with FBR Capital Markets & Co., said the move is clearly related to succession planning, something Disney has managed poorly in the past, especially with the resignation of Michael Eisner in 2005 following a shareholder revolt.

“Like so many things under Bob Iger, things are just working better now, including succession,” Crockett said.

Iger is to step down in 2018, having postponed his resignation twice, thanks to the board of directors push to continue with his success transforming the company, largely through the major acquisitions of Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm.

The possible promotion of 55-year-old Staggs was foreshadowed when he became chief operating officer, a newly created position, in February.

Disney has not officially named a successor to Iger.

Rasulo joined Disney in 1986, had been chairman of Disney’s parks and resorts division, and became CFO five years ago. He was also recently responsible for overseeing operations at YouTube channel operator Maker Studios.

Rasulo oversaw the major expansion of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland and the addition of two new cruise ships to Disney’s fleet. Rasulo said in a statement it was a “true honor” to work at Disney.

Bob Iger Says ‘Star Wars’ Rollout Plan “Extremely Deliberate”


From the Hollywood Reporter

Star Wars fans seeking clues as to what Disney has in store for the lead-up to the next film installment were treated to a slew of them Tuesday courtesy of Disney CEO Bob Iger, though details remain intentionally murky.

“We’ve already got some increased product in the marketplace, but the real ramp-up from the consumer-products perspective won’t come until just a few months prior to the release,” Iger said during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due out Dec. 18, and Disney says that, at midnight on Sept. 4 — dubbed “Force Friday” — stores worldwide will begin selling products related to the film, including lightsabers, action figures and Lego sets. Disney also confirmed Tuesday that the next iteration of its Infinity video game-toy hybrid will feature Star Wars characters.

Electronic Arts also has Star Wars Battlefront due in November.

“You can expect that there will be more game-related activity between now and the release,” said Iger.

Those hoping for an all-out blitz of merchandise, online trailers and various forms of manufactured hype between now and the release date, though, will be disappointed, as Iger says he worries about oversaturation.

“Generally speaking, you’re going to see us release, in a very careful way, certain elements of the film as part of a carefully designed marketing plan as we get much closer to the film,” said the CEO.

“This is already a very strong franchise, but a film has not been released in 10 years,” said Iger. “We’re not treating this as something that is brand new. We’re mindful of the fact that there’s a whole generation of people out there that were not as steeped in the Star Wars lore and not as in love with the franchise as an older generation.”

Star Wars definitely will play a bigger role at theme parks, too, though much of what’s being bandied about likely will appear after the movie opens, according to insiders.

“We have a huge opportunity there,” said Iger. “We’ve had single attractions, Star Tours, in multiple places around the world … and some Jedi training-academy related shows here and there, but the opportunity here in the U.S. and around the world is tremendous, and we’re doing some development work on it.”

Iger even acknowledged thinking about a Disney streaming service, perhaps something akin to the recently launched CBS All Access product, and he said Star Wars could play a role there, too.

“With these channels and these brands — ESPN, ABC, Disney, maybe even down the road something related to Star Wars and Marvel — we do have the ability as a company to take product, specifically filmed entertainment, telvision, movies, directly to consumers, and we got some development underway to do just that,” he said.

Iger boasted that the second Force Awakens teaser trailer released online garnered 80 million views in the first 24 hours and “hundreds of millions since. Quite amazing.”

Not that he needed confirmation, but research firm Amobee Brand Intelligence said Tuesday that there was 197 percent more digital consumption around the franchise on May 4 — “Star Wars Day” (May the fourth be with you.) — than there was for Avengers: Age of Ultron the day it opened, May 1.

Star Wars is part of the national cultural identity in a way where online interest far exceeds other popular movie franchises,” concluded Amobee.

The research firm said 54 brands engaged in Star Wars Day, including Amazon, Miller Lite, Subway and Volkswagen.

“Considering Age of Ultron has already made [$643.5] million globally, when the new Star Warsmovie is released in December, it will probably make enough money to fund a third Death Star,” said Amobee.

“There are markets around the world that weren’t as developed back 10 years ago,” noted Iger. “China is probably the best example. It’s now the No. 2 movie market in the world. Obviously, when the last Star Wars film released, it was barely a market from a movie perspective.”

“We are managing all this with great care,” continued Iger. “We are mindful of the fact that we need to market this and go after this new generation and new territories. We also want to be careful that the demand does not create almost too much in the marketplace too soon.

“And so, everything we have done to date has been extremely deliberate, and we have a carefully constructed and deliberate plan going forward in terms of what we roll out in the marketplace in terms of product and marketing.”

Iger concluded with: “We’ve got something here that is very, very special.”

Bob Iger Rejects Idea of Third Anaheim Gate but Confirms Expansion

Mickey:Minnie - Disneyland

From the Los Angeles Times

A new Disney theme park in Anaheim is probably not in the works but an expansion of Disneyland is very likely.

Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger dismissed rumors that the company may open a third theme park adjacent to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

But in the same breath, he said an expansion of Disneyland is in the works.

“We have plans at Disneyland for an expansion that we have not announced but those plans at the present do not include a third gate,” he told shareholders in San Francisco during the Burbank company’s annual meeting.

According to longtime park watchers, Disney has developed plans, dating to 2000, to build a third park on a 78-acre site just south of Disney’s complex on Harbor Boulevard.

But those plans, Disney experts say, were shelved while the company focused on the 2001 opening of Disney California Adventure, which fell short of predictions until a $1-billion expansion in 2012 added the hugely successful Cars Land.

A Disneyland expansion is likely to feature Marvel superheros or “Star Wars” characters.

After all, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment Inc. in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012.

Disney may have already begun gauging public interest in a “Star Wars” expansion.

On Twitter, one Disney guest posted a screen grab in 2013 of a Disney survey that asked: “How interested would you be in visiting a Star Wars themed land at Disneyland Resort?”

Other survey questions included: “Which Star Wars characters would you definitely not want to see or meet in person?”

Also, Disneyland’s recent announcement to close the Innoventions exhibit hall in Tomorrowland prompted fans to suggest that a new Marvel or “Star Wars” attraction is in the works for that building.

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