With contract extension in tow, Disney CEO continues to push entertainment giant out of pandemic

(Photo from Walt Disney Television's Flickr)

Disney’s board of executives voted last month to extend CEO Bob Chapek’s contract three more years, as the global entertainment company continues to push past the pandemic.

Before he took over as CEO, Chapek was a quiet, yet well-known figure in the company. He started his career at Disney back in 1993, and held several executive positions in the company, albeit not as flashy as his current one. Among his previous titles was chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, as well as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

He took over the top role from Bob Iger, a well-liked CEO who left at the top of his game after compiling a 15-year list of accomplishments. Iger had been CEO since 2005 and was responsible for the acquisition of Pixar, the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, the unveiling of the theme-park area known as “Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge” and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service.

In February of 2020, however, Iger announced that he would be stepping down at the end of 2021 and announced Chapek as his successor.

“I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations,” Iger said at the time.

But for Chapek, Disney and the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic was about to completely upend society, and on a smaller scale, put many of Disney’s next plans on hold.

A rift was also created between the CEOs along the way. It began when Iger announced that he would be staying on to help Chapek and the company through the sudden change brought on by the pandemic. According to CNBC, Chapek was infuriated by this, as he had not expressed the need for help and that he wasn’t looking for a “white knight.”

Soon after COVID-19 took full effect, Chapek shut down Disney’s parks and cruise ships, as well as all film and TV projects that were in production. Chapek was essential in navigating the company through the pandemic, but it wasn’t without a base of critics building along the way.

Due to the closures, his early milestones were not extravagant. Chapek managed to keep the success of Disney+ afloat with hits such as “Mandalorian” and “WandaVision.” He also put the long-awaited retheme of the “Splash Mountain” theme-park ride into effect.

But those came with tougher moments as well. There were substantial layoffs brought on by the shutdown of the parks and cruise ships. He also famously decided to cancel the FastPass system in the parks in favor of paid Lightning Lanes and Genie+, much to the dismay of many theme-park loyalists.

All that said, the Disney board has shown Chapek support throughout his tenure and said it has “full confidence” in him.

“The strength of The Walt Disney Company’s businesses coming out of the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the company’s future. In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the Board,” Disney Board Chairman Susan Arnold wrote in a statement.

Those words were put into action last month when the board officially extended his contract. But still, others have differing opinions on Chapek. This was made clear when Florida passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Some employees were frustrated with Chapek’s lack of response to the bill, and other fans thought it was hypocritical of Disney to market themselves as allies while actively ignoring the bill.

The bill was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March. Time will tell if Disney faces additional criticism.

For now though, Chapek has a new deal, his parks continue to return to normalcy and his film and show releases are slowly returning to a full schedule. As these all continue, fans will soon see a clearer picture of what the future holds for Disney’s CEO.

Maria Ubeda is currently an undergraduate student at Florida International University who is currently studying to get her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with a minor in English. She is perfecting her skills by writing and publishing her school articles on SFMN. She hopes to one day work in the news industry as a journalist and write stories that make an impact on the lives of the readers.