Woke CEO Ousted from Disney, Huge Name Returns with a Powerful Mandate from the Board


Disney fired its CEO. Everyone is shocked.

Maybe that should read: Disney fired its CEO. Everyone is shocked?

That’s because a lot of conservatives probably aren’t surprised about the Walt Disney Co. jettisoning CEO Bob Chapek on Sunday night.

But the media is stunned: “Disney Shocker: Bob Iger Returning as CEO, Bob Chapek Exits,” The Hollywood Reporter titled its article. The Los Angeles Times’ headline read, “In Hollywood stunner, Robert Iger returns to head Disney as Bob Chapek exits.” And Deadline wrote, “Disney Shocker! Bob Iger back as CEO, Bob Chapek out.”

Why the shocker?

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After all, Disney stock crashed over 40 percent this year on Chapek’s watch, the Times reported.

How can a sterling company like Disney take such a big tumble?

Could it be the once-loved Disney brand is no longer what it once was? That, like so many institutions, it is out of touch with its target market?

And given that its target market has been families, could Disney’s abandonment of traditional family values be bringing it to the reality of the meme: “Go woke, go broke?”

Should Disney abandon woke ideology altogether?

Disney’s board isn’t saying.

It issued what board chairwoman Susan Arnold described as a “mandate” to fix the company by developing a strategy for growth. Iger also would work with the board in getting a successor.

Reasons swirling around Chapek’s dismissal include the board’s concern over the $1.5 billion loss between July and September by its streaming service despite numerical growth, according to the Times.

In addition to poor financial performance, board members have also been critical of organizational changes Chapek has made, which creative executives say have stifled them.

One also cannot forget the conflict on Chapek’s watch with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which cost the company its special status in that state.

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Chapek also got into a legal battle last year with star Scarlett Johansson, who accused the company of cheating her out of revenues from Marvel’s “Black Widow”; he fired Peter Rice, head of Disney television; and he hurt employee morale with a recent announcement of cost-cutting, the Times said.

But what is not being addressed, outside of perhaps the battle with DeSantis, is the effect of the company’s decision to move hard left in the culture wars with its open endorsement of an LGBT agenda that is contrary to the sensibilities of much of its target market.

It has to be having an effect on the bottom line.

And it may be that the leftward political and social push infecting major corporations is reaching its peak.

Despite the board’s mandate, there’s no telling the direction Disney will go as Iger, who was CEO for 15 years, returns to the helm to replace Chapek. Significantly, some companies are beginning to understand the go-woke-go-broke message.

Fear of employees’ opinions has been driving top management in recent years, Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney said in 2021. “They are afraid of being called racist,” Varney said. “The ‘woke generation’ speaks loudly, and the CEO cringes and retreats.”

Ron Clutz wrote in Science Matters: “Far from the traditional [Human Resource Department] responsibilities of hiring, firing, and training personnel, today’s HR departments are the woke police of corporate America, enforcing rigid adherence to leftist ideology.

“Any dissent, even from corporate leadership, is not tolerated,” Clutz said. “Ever fearful of being tried in the court of public opinion, CEOs and other executives, ostensibly the most powerful people in the company and some of the most powerful people in the country, submit.”

But that’s beginning to change.

Last summer, CEO of Kraken Jesse Powell invited employees upset with controversial ideas at the company to leave, The Epoch Times reported.

Rightly or wrongly, Elon Musk has been letting Twitter employees know who is boss since he recently took over the social media platform.

Earlier in the year, the sports website The Athletic told its employees to forget political activism and focus on sports, and Netflix took a stand against employee censorship of its offerings, the Epoch Times said.

Perhaps Chapek’s removal at Disney indicates the company’s board is concerned about more than finances and internal organization and has had enough of his LGBT-oriented efforts both on and off the screen.

For his part, Iger during his tenure boosted Disney capitalization from $48 billion to $257 billion, far above its current valuation of $164 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He had been an ABC television executive when Disney acquired the network in 1995, becoming CEO in 2005.

Noted for his business abilities, Iger was also credited for his creative vision, making strategic purchases of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 and Fox, 20th Century Fox and National Geographic in 2019, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

While the board credited Chapek for his leading Disney during the difficult pandemic, Arnold, as board chairwoman, said: “The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period,” Deadline reported.

Iger is only to be heading Disney for two years. Hopefully, he will be able to recognize that Disney is to be serving its target market, not the social and political desires of the people who work for it.

The financial success that would follow would not be surprising.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.