Bob Igor is Back But Can He Save Disney?

Bob Igor wasn’t back six months and he had to fend off a proxy battle with the activist investor Nelson Peltz. While he pulled that off, one has to ask, was it worth it and more importantly how did we (Disney investors and fans) get here?

If you read Mr. Igors book, “The Ride of A Lifetime” you quickly realize that Mr. Igor isn’t a “Disney” man, but rather a born and bred “news” man. As we peel back the onion the importance of that difference will become clear. But before I continue, I have to admit I had my own desires for a board seat at Disney. Once upon a time I sent letters to several board members asking for advice and support for a board seat at Disney. I felt that Michael Eisner has lost his edge and needed to retire. I even advocated for Bob Igor at the time. How little I knew.

Changing of the guard stormtroopers
Changing of the Guard at Disney, Bob Igor is Back… for now….

After Mr. Eisner left the building and Mr. Igor took over change didn’t happen big in a public way. It was quiet and subtle. Well right up until the exit of John Lasseter that is. Mr. Lasseter, a true “Disney” man left the company with what I will say are suspicious circumstances. I have met him and know several members of his family. The public statements regarding his departure make no sense. It was said he made “Missteps”. What “missteps” does a man that created some of the biggest pixar stories leading to some of Disney’s biggest brands make?

John Lasseter “miss steps” Out The Door.

What does make sense is that Mr. Igor and Mr. Chapeck didn’t want Mr. Lasseter to be the next Chairman.

Shortly after Mr. Lassetter left Disney to go run his family winery in Northern California near the old Pixar offices he used to work in, Bob Igor retired. He did so after the Pandemic started and his true loyalties became clear. Chairman Bob Igor did something that had never been done before. He closed Disney parks. Instead of asking his team to be solid journalists and question authority, his news teams joined the narrative and he joined the movement lock step. Reading his book was a disappointment to me as a supporter. Watching him close Disney parks was like being punched in the face by a friend for being there.

Time Burtons Attack on the Haunted Mansion
Maybe Danny Elfman or Tim Burton are next?

When Mr. Igor retired, he did so by handing the reins over to his hand picked successor Mr. Chapeck. This is where we need to talk simple facts. At his opening remarks at the first stockholder meeting Mr. Chapeck presided over, the new CEO pledged support to a faction of Disney employees claiming rainbow rights were more important than the Disney image. He went further to say that he would fight a law in Florida with all of Disney’s might. He clearly didn’t understand the law or Disney customers. Or Walt Disney’s vision of a family safe place. I listened to that meeting online as a stock holder banned from attendance due to health risks.

Disney Parks Open But…

A wise man once said if you take care of your employees they will take care of your customers. The problem was the vocal employees of DisneyWorld were not the majority and were not “taking care of” the customers. In fact they were trying to run them off. I went to DisneyWorld to see it for myself. The state of Florida led by its popular and conservative governor pushed back and rescinded several special legal statuses that Disney enjoyed in their state. The fight was on.

All of the political nonsense aside there is a bigger picture issue here for both the Disney company and its employee’s. Regardless of who sits in the White House or the Governor’s Mansion, more than 50% of the US considers itself “family oriented and somewhat conservative”. The “don’t say gay militia” were saying to over half of their customers “we don’t want you”. Mr. Chapek backed them up. That was a major strategic error.

I once heard the big boss of a public art gallery addressing a group of artists. She said “We can be as liberal, socialist or communist as we want while we sit in this room. Outside of this room you need to realize that the conservatives are half the people that walk in the door and 80% or more of the people that pay for the art and donate to keep the gallery open.” Bob Chapek missed that speech, it was a new way to think about business and life for me.

The First Bob is Back.

Now that Bob Igor is back and Bob Chapek is gone, what will the former do? He said in his book he wanted to retire for years. I can’t imagine he asked to come back, but he did hold some of the responsibility since Mr. Chapek was his choice. How does he get out of this jam?

Millennium Falcon at Disney Land Resort
Han Solo? George Lucas? They could be good too

To tell you the truth I was hoping to see John Lasseter return. I realize the chances of John Lasseter being the next Disney CEO are about as good as me being the next Chairman of the board, but stranger things have happened. After some great conversations and mentoring by previous Disney board members and Disney exec’s I realize that is a far fetched hope for someone in my shoes. Sadly I think what the board needs is someone in my shoes. The board needs someone in shoes that have walked 12 miles a day at DisneyWorld at least a dozen times. Instead the new chairman comes from the board of a company that makes shoes?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *