Disney CEO Bob Iger Says He’s Stepping Down in 2019, and This Time He Means It

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger is finally planning his exit from the company.

Speaking at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit on Tuesday, Iger said that he plans to actually step down as CEO of Disney in mid 2019.

“This time I mean it,” Iger said during the summit. “It’s time.”

There has been speculation that the Disney  chief might consider a political career following his departure, but when asked about it he said, “let’s not go there,” according to Variety.

Earlier this year Disney’s board of directors extended Iger’s contract through July 2, 2019. That move came after the man widely expected to succeed him, former Chief Operating Officer Tom Skaggs, left the company after it became clear he would not get the job.

Iger had planned to step down in 2018, but only after an earlier planned exit in 2016 was pushed back. It’s unclear if the company has a suitable internal candidate as successor or will have to look outside.

 

 

Bob Iger Says No to Virtual Reality Headsets at Disney parks, Aims for Augmented Reality Instead

Walt Disney Co.’s chief executive has no interest in having theme park visitors strap on virtual reality headsets that block out their view and place them inside a digital world.

Smaller rivals, including Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld and Six Flags, have turned to such virtual reality experiences as an affordable way to spice up rides, but Disney CEO Bob Iger said reality-destroying headsets would be “ersatz” at his stable of parks. He’s ordered his team not to even think about it.

Iger, speaking at a USC event in Santa Monica on Thursday, instead talked up the possibility of launching high-tech augmented reality attractions. Those will still probably involve headgear, but the devices will blend the real and digital worlds.

Iger noted he spends each Tuesday afternoon at a Disney engineering lab sporting a head-worn device that enables him to hold a light-saber and duel with a stormtrooper.

He could be referring to a partnership with augmented reality device maker Magic Leap. Iger expressed hope the gadget would get lighter and more comfortable someday.

He didn’t shed more details. But it’s possible that game would contrast with virtual reality rides at other theme parks because people would be on a large set and moving around other people, as opposed to standing in place and only seeing computer projections. Disneyland currently offers a popular Jedi Training Academy in Tomorrowland, with live characters who pretend to fight light-saber-wielding children visiting the park.

“What we create is an experience that is real,” Iger said. “When you walk into Cars Land, you feel you’re in Radiator Springs because of what we’ve built — not only the attention to the detail, but the scale.”

Iger described how Disney spent considerable time and money ensuring robots cast as “Avatar” characters would have vibrant facial expressions at an attraction opening in May at its Orlando theme park,

This “will have expressions you will not believe in terms of how Na’vi-like they are,” he said, referring to the human-like alien race in the film franchise.

Theme park experts had already speculated that virtual reality headsets would be unlikely at Disneyland. “Theme park purists don’t like” them, Martin Lewison, a business management professor at Farmingdale State College, said last year. “They’d much rather go on a $250-million ride at Disneyland than throw a mask strapped to a Samsung smartphone over my eyes.”

Iger also shed some insight into the upcoming “Star Wars” attraction at Disney parks in Anaheim and Orlando. One ride is expected to let visitors joyride in the cockpit of Han Solo’s spaceship, Millennium Falcon.

“It’s pretty good, real good,” Iger said of test rides he’s done in a simulator.

From The Los Angeles Times

Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract to 2019

The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday that Bob Iger is extending his tenure as CEO again.

Set to retire from the entertainment giant in June 2018, Iger has now re-upped his contract until July 2, 2019 amid concerns among industry observers that there is no heir apparent within the company’s executive ranks.

“Leading this great company is a tremendous privilege, and I am honored to have been asked to continue serving as CEO through July 2, 2019,” Mr. Iger said in a statement. “Even with the incredible success the company has achieved, I am confident that Disney’s best days are still ahead, and I look forward to continuing to build on our proven strategy for growth while working with the Board to identify a successor as CEO and ensure a successful transition.”

The terms of his employment agreement “remain unchanged,” except for certain provisions, Disney said in a regulatory filing. His annual compensation for the extended employment period “will be determined on the same basis as his annual compensation for fiscal 2016.”

If Iger remains until July 2, 2019, he will receive a cash bonus of $5 million “in addition to an award for fiscal 2019 under the company’s management incentive bonus program,” it said. “Following the termination of his employment at the expiration date, to enable the company to have access to Mr. Iger’s unique skills, knowledge and experience with regard to the media and entertainment business, Mr. Iger will serve as a consultant to the company for a period of three years.”

He will the provide “assistance, up to certain specified monthly and annual maximum time commitments, on such matters as his successor as chief executive officer may request from time to time.”

For his consulting services, Iger will receive a quarterly fee of $500,000 for each of the first eight quarters and $250,000 for each of the last four quarters of the consulting period. “For the three years following termination of employment, the company will also provide Mr. Iger with the same security services (other than the personal use of a company provided aircraft) as it has made available to him as chief executive officer,” the filing said.

Former Disney COO Tom Staggs was considered Iger’s likely successor until his abrupt departure last spring. At the time of Staggs’ exit, the Disney board vowed to “broaden the scope of its succession-planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates.” It has since been mum about its succession planning. At the time, industry observers mentioned Facebook COO and Disney board member Sheryl Sandberg as a possible candidate.

Disney’s stock as of 11:10 a.m. ET was up 0.7 percent at $112.88, near its 52-week high of $113.16.

“Given Bob Iger’s outstanding leadership, his record of success in a changing media landscape, and his clear strategic vision for Disney’s future, it is obvious that the Company and its shareholders will be best served by his continued leadership as the Board conducts the robust process of identifying a successor and ensuring a smooth transition,” said Orin C. Smith, independent lead director of the Disney Board.

Otherwise, experts cited industry executives who all seemed happy in their respective jobs, such as NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. Under the leadership of Iger, who turned 66 on Feb. 10, Disney has done well. The company has said that total shareholder return during his tenure has been nearly twice that of other entertainment conglomerates.

Iger’s latest extension marks a change of mind for the executive. He originally planned to step down as Disney CEO in 2015 after running the company for a decade. But he extended and then did so again a year later.

Back then, he said about his plans to depart in mid-2018, “I really mean it.” Succession at Disney seems a perpetually thorny going back decades when Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz each jockeyed to take over from Michael Eisner. When Eisner finally stepped down in 2005 it was under such strenuous conditions that even Roy E. Disney, the founder’s nephew, was publicly attacking him.

From The Hollywood Reporter

Disney Increases Stake in Disneyland Paris, Offers to Buy Rest

Walt Disney Co. plans to take full ownership of its ailing theme park in Paris to get the resort under control after 25 years of ups and downs at its first and only outlet in Europe.

Disney is acquiring a 9 percent stake in Euro Disney SCA from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. for 2 euros ($2.13) a share, payable in Disney stock. That will give it an 85.7 percent holding, and it’s offering the same price in cash for the rest, according to a statement Friday. The offer is 67 percent higher than Euro Disney’s closing price Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger is doubling down on the troubled resort, which has already been bailed out by Disney more than once. Hurt by sputtering European economies in recent years, the park’s finances were further hit by the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks and challenging business conditions that continued through 2016.

Disney said it will support Euro Disney’s recapitalization of as much as 1.5 billion euros. That follows a 2014 rescue package, when the resort was pledged at least 1 billion euros over 10 years to add attractions and spruce up grounds.

The new plan “affords maximum flexibility to shareholders, addresses the group’s financial needs and reflects its ongoing support for the long-term success of Disneyland Paris,” Disney said.

Shares of Euro Disney jumped 66 percent to 1.99 euros at 3:37 p.m. in Paris, giving the company a market value of 1.56 billion euros. Disney added 0.2 percent to $109.66 in New York Friday for a market value of $173 billion.

The investment marks a deeper commitment by Disney to its global theme-parks business. The entertainment giant opened a $5.5 billion resort in Shanghai last June that drew 4 million guests in its first four months, and is creating new attractions based on hit films. Disney is building “Star Wars”-themed lands at its parks in Orlando and Anaheim, California, and is also on schedule to open an “Avatar” attraction at its Animal Kingdom park in Florida in May.

This week, Disney reported a 13 percent gain in theme-park profit to $1.11 billion, buoyed by higher spending at the domestic and international parks, including a Shanghai resort, which opened in June. Profit at the theme-park division topped earnings from businesses including the cable-TV unit, home to ESPN and the Disney Channel, and its film arm.

The Paris resort’s history includes several financing maneuvers as it has struggled to match the popularity of Disney’s U.S. theme parks. In 2012, Euro Disney consolidated debt from a number of banks into a loan from the Disney company. Prince Alwaleed bought a 10 percent stake in Euro Disney in a refinancing in 1994, two years after its opening.

Euro Disney’s board has expressed its support for Disney’s plan. The board’s audit committee, comprised of independent members, is recommending an expert to deliver a fairness opinion about the offer.

From Bloomberg

Shanghai Disney Resort Nears 1 Million Visitors

Disney chief executive Robert Iger said nearly a million people have visited the entertainment giant’s theme park opened less than a month ago in mainland China.

“It would be safe to assume almost a million people have experienced the park,” Iger said during an on-stage chat at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.

Visitors to the park are staying longer than expected each day and showing fondness for Chinese barbecued pork with rice, cheeseburgers and turkey legs, according to Iger.

“We are introducing turkey legs to China,” Iger quipped. “Which I thought was a mistake, but we are selling 3,000 a day.”

Each turkey leg, sourced from Poland, costs more than $8 US.

Disney set the entrance fee at 499 yuan ($76) during peak periods and 370 yuan ($56) for other times, in a country where the average monthly disposable income is just $278.

Disney opened the massive Shanghai theme park to the public in mid-June, hoping to win over communist-ruled China’s growing middle class with the ultimate American cultural export.

The Shanghai resort is the US company’s sixth in the world and the first in mainland China — there is already one in Hong Kong.

Disney tailored park attractions for China and left out some American trademark features, such as Main Street USA.

“I very much wanted to avoid being called a cultural imperialist,” Iger said of work that went into tuning the Disney park for Shanghai.

Disney said its philosophy is to integrate local elements throughout, from the Chinse food on the menu to the attractions — even the Disney castle is topped with a traditional peony flower.

Iger referred to the Shanghai project as a lesson in patience and perseverance, saying nearly 18 years elapsed from when he first stepped on the site for a survey to the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The park is the most technologically advanced ever constructed by Disney, Iger said.

Workers broke ground on the project in 2011 and the Shanghai Disney Resort now sprawls over 3.9 square kilometers (1.5 square miles) on the city’s outskirts, with a fairy-tale castle soaring over the horizon.

But the launch of the $5.5 billion resort, representing one of the biggest foreign investments ever in China, comes as growth in the world’s second largest economy slumps to its lowest level in a quarter century.

Still, Disney deemed the world’s most populous country too big to ignore.

There is competition for tourist cash as China builds more theme parks than any other country in the world.

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

‘Star Wars Land’ at US Disney parks to Break Ground in 2016

Star Wars Land Concept Art

Walt Disney Co. will break ground on “Star Wars”-themed lands at Disneyland and one of its Florida theme parks in 2016, Chief Operating Officer Thomas Staggs said Thursday.

The 14-acre “Star Wars” areas represent the largest expansions in the Burbank-based company’s history for a single-themed area at its parks. The Florida iteration will be built at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is part of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

The projects were announced at Disney’s D23 fan expo at the Anaheim Convention Center in August. A Disney spokesperson said then that construction would begin by the end of 2017.

Staggs, who was speaking at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch 2015 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills, did not say when the “Star Wars” lands would open.

Speaking at D23, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger said the “Star Wars”-themed areas will include a re-creation of the Millennium Falcon, the iconic spacecraft from the film series. Iger said guests would be able to take the controls of the ship for a “customized secret mission.”

Disney, which bought “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion in 2012, will soon release the first new film in the franchise in more than a decade.

The picture, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” comes out Dec. 18 and stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, among others.

SOURCE: Los Angles Times

Shanghai Disneyland Opening Moved to First Half of 2016

Shanghai Disneyland

Walt Disney Company’s theme park in Shanghai, which was previously slated to open at the end of the year, has been pushed to the first half of 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to the project.

The media company has not specified a particular launch date for the $5.5 billion theme park in China’s largest city by population, the WSJ said.

Shanghai’s mayor had said last week that basic construction should be completed in 2015, while Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger had also affirmed in April that the park would open in 2015, the WSJ added.

Beijing will start on the construction of a Universal Studios theme park this year, which will be open to the public in 2019, the China Daily newspaper said.

Neither Walt Disney’s spokeswoman nor Shanghai Disney were immediately available to comment on the report.