Bob Chapek (C) Chairman of Parks, Experiences, and Products for the Walt Disney Company speaks during the dedication ceremony for the “Rise of the Resistance” attraction opening at Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on December 04, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
The head of Disney’s parks, experiences and products is now its new CEO.
Bob Chapek was tapped on Tuesday to succeed long-time Disney CEO Bob Iger. A 27-year veteran of the Walt Disney Company, Chapek, 60, has a proven track record with consumers having been instrumental in the growth of the company’s parks, consumer products and studio film businesses.
He will be the seventh CEO in Disney’s nearly 100-year history. Iger will assume the role of executive chairman.
“I obviously have huge shoes to fill,” Chapek told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on “Closing Bell” Tuesday. “Bob’s legacy in the company is just profound. I think my role is not to take the strategic pillars he’s so well established over the last 15 years and continue to work on those and implement those in the marketplace, most importantly our direct-to-consumer initiatives, but at the same time look around the corner for what disruption might be going on in the marketplace that would necessitate a fresh look at those things.”
“Right now, the course that Bob has laid is one that we fully intend to follow and I think will pay dividends for our shareholders for years to come,” he said.
Shares of the company fell less than 2% in extending trading Tuesday.
Chapek’s promotion comes at a time when Disney is facing challenges from the global coronavirus outbreak. The Shanghai and Hong Kong Disney parks have been shuttered until the outbreak can be contained and there are concerns from analysts that upcoming Disney film releases like “Mulan” could be disrupted because cinemas are currently closed in China. Additionally, the outbreak continues to threaten the global economy and worldwide travel.
Iger, 69, will remain with the company through 2021 to handle Disney’s content initiatives such as Disney+, with the expectation that Chapek will eventually take control of all roles. The streaming service launched in November.
“Bob is probably the best qualified person in the company to take this job,” Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson, said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Tuesday. “His history in all the divisions that really matter really is very supportive of him taking on that role.”
Nathanson said the selection of Chapek was not a surprise and a “win-win for the company.”
Chapek has been overseeing the company’s parks, experiences and products division since those divisions were combined in 2018. The segment includes Disney’s travel and leisure businesses, including six resort destinations and a cruise line, its consumer products operations, including all of its licensing of apparel, toys, home goods, digital games, apps, publishing and retail locations, as well as all of its theme parks globally.
“Parks is a business where they use data to drive pricing and engagement,” Nathanson said. “Parks is the only business they have, before [streaming], that’s direct to consumer.”
Chapek’s was named chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2015 and his tenure was marked by the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016, the doubling of the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the addition of immersive Star Wars lands at Disneyland and Disney World, the expansion of Marvel-inspired attractions worldwide and massive development projects at Disneyland Paris.
Prior to working at the parks, Chapek led Disney’s home entertainment business starting in 2009 and led the organization to record-setting performances. He also played a key role in the commercialization of the studio’s film business.
He then transitioned to the company’s consumer products team in 2011 as president of Disney consumer products. In that role, he reorganized the business to cut costs and oversaw a number of popular toy crazes from franchises like “Frozen.”
Before joining Disney, Chapek worked in brand management at ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, and in advertising at J. Walter Thompson.
He has a microbiology degree from Indiana University Bloomington and received his MBA from Michigan State University.