Bob Iger Tells Disney Town Hall Hiring Freeze Still In Effect, No New Acquisitions Planned & Not Merging With Apple

“There is a lot to do,” Bob Iger told Disney staffers today of the state of the company he is now running again. “Quickly,” added the newly re-minted CEO at a town hall at the company’s Burbank HQ heralding his official return.

The 71-year old executive also said that the hiring freeze his pink slipped predecessor Bob Chapek announced on November 11 is still in place. Offering his perspective from being outside the company the past year after decades at Disney, Iger told staffers additionally that rumors of a merger or deal with Apple were just that – “pure speculation.” The man who bought Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox for Disney during his last stint as CEO also noted that the House of Mouse wasn’t looking to make anymore big ticket acquisitions any time soon

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Held in front of a crowd at Disney’s main corporate campus, the town hall was livestreamed Monday for employees around the globe to tune in for too. Taking questions after a breezy five-minute speech, Iger joshed that his wife pushed him to exit retirement so he wouldn’t contemplate a White House bid, again.

Coming just over a week after Iger was returned to his perch at the House of Mouse and Chapek was unceremoniously shown the door, the once and current CEO’s attempt to rally the Disney troops comes at a precarious time for the media giant. On one hand, Disney has the top movie in the world with Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever. However, this past weekend also saw the company take a more than $100 million thump with the box office crash and burn of animated feature Strange World. In that context, the December 16 release of James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water poses potentially more big screen success and financial stress for the studio.

Quickly purging the upper ranks of Disney of the short-lived Chapek’s top lieutenants in the hours after being renamed CEO unexpectedly on November 20, the notoriously successor-uncongenial Iger also has a 24 month deadline to leave the company in stable hands – an effort that floundered from almost the get-go with Chapek.

Somewhat anti-climatic, according to one source, the 40-minute town hall today found Iger sidestepping Florida’s discrimatory “Don’t Say Gay” law that knee capped a flip-flopping Chapek earlier this year. “One of the core values of our storytelling is inclusion, and acceptance and tolerance,” the deft Iger stated in response to a staffer question on the topic. Essentially, noting you can’t please all the people all the time, Iger added the matter shouldn’t be a political issues, we hear.

Earlier today, Iger took to Twitter, which he once pondered purchasing for Disney, to show an optimistic face upon his initial return to Burbank HQ:

In that vein, Disney shares initially rallied on the news of Iger’s return over a week ago, but they have come back to earth, slipping almost 3% today to near $96. After Chapek manage to steer the company through the grueling experience of Covid in 2020, the stock ended that year on a high note but it has lost 40% in 2022 to date as investors have taken a more clear-eyed look at the company’s troubled financials. Just prior to Iger’s return, it bottomed out at a new multi-year low of $86.28, its lowest level since early 2020.

The company’s push into streaming, initiated by Iger and continued in Chapek’s run, has squeezed profits and additional economic pressures prompted execs to forecast single-digit increases in revenue and profit for fiscal 2023. That’s a lot lower growth than many Wall Street analysts had previously been forecasting.

Iger also faces the question of whether to redraw the corporate map of how various divisions are organized and report their results. Chapek compressed the company into just two divisions: Parks, Experiences and Products; and Media and Entertainment Distribution. The guiding principle of DMED was Chapek’s centralization of distribution decisions under his now-ousted lieutenant Kareem Daniel. With Iger declaring his intent to undo key elements of the DMED scheme and return P&L control and distribution decisions to key creative execs, it is now a question of whether he also returns the company to its former shape in terms of having more units.


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