Bob Chapek, a former Disney parks executive, succeeded Bob Iger as CEO of the House of Mouse in February 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic ravaged many of the most lucrative parts of the company’s business.
Less than three years later, Chapek is out, and Iger, who led Disney through unprecedented success, is back in.
Chapek’s tenure was marked by a series of controversies and questionable moves that raised eyebrows at best and ignited condemnation at worst.
And last week’s earnings, in which Disney reported a $1.5 billion loss on its streaming business, appeared to be the final straw. The company’s stock dipped 13% the day after the earnings call, its biggest one-day fall in two years.
Now, during a time of heightened economic strain for the entire media industry, Disney is pivoting to the guy who led the company through its acquisitions of Marvel and Fox, and the launch of its streaming platform, Disney+.
While the decision is shocking and sure to send waves through Hollywood, it didn’t come out of nowhere. There had been reports for months, including from Insider’s Claire Atkinson, of a rift between the Bobs and rumors that Iger was unhappy with Chapek’s leadership.
Disney’s board, which just earlier this year extended Chapek’s contract, is clearly unhappy as well. Here are a few of the controversies during Chapek’s time as CEO that led to this moment:
Scarlett Johansson sued Disney over its streaming release for ‘Black Widow’
Once instated as CEO, Chapek immediately faced the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
By 2021, with theatrical attendance still rocky, Disney aimed to release some movies in theaters and, for a fee, onto Disney+ simultaneously.
One of those movies was Marvel’s “Black Widow.” After the movie was hit with a steep second-weekend drop at the box office, the National Association of Theatre Owners released a scathing statement.
But the move didn’t just upset theater owners. Star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney, claiming the move breached her contract, as her salary was based on a portion of box-office earnings. The two parties eventually settled.
“Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel,” the lawsuit said.
Disney hit back with a statement criticizing the actress for her “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Chapek faced backlash over his response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
Earlier this year, Chapek angered Disney staffers over his initial response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibited discussion of sexuality and gender in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
Chapek initially sent a company-wide memo in March that said, in part, “the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.”
Following outcry from Disney employees who expected a condemnation of the bill, Chapek issued an apology and said the company would stop all political donations in Florida.
This prompted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign a law stripping Disney World of its special tax privileges and self-governing status.
It also led to creatives speaking out on the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in Disney movies. Some Pixar employees released an open letter accusing Disney of censoring gay affection in its movies. Former staffers of the now-shuttered animation studio Blu Sky told Insider that Disney leadership took issue with a same-sex kiss in the movie “Nimona” (which will now be released by Netflix).
Chapek restructured Disney, including ousting its beloved top TV exec
Chapek quickly looked to reshape Disney structurally, including a massive reorganization in 2020 that elevated exec Kareem Daniel to a new role overseeing entertainment distribution, including of the company’s streaming platforms.
One top exec who didn’t make it through the Chapek era was Peter Rice, who oversaw TV content and was suddenly ousted in June.