Bombshell report details tense relationship between Disney execs

FILE: Bob Chapek (left), then-CEO of Walt Disney, and Bob Iger, then-executive chairman of Walt Disney, speak during “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” Walt Disney World Resort 50th Anniversary at Magic Kingdom on Sept. 30, 2021 in Orlando, Fla.

Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

The power struggle at the top of the Walt Disney Company between Bob Iger and Bob Chapek was even more tense, awkward and downright strange than previously reported, an expose from CNBC alleges.

The story by reporter Alex Sherman, who spoke to over two dozen people who worked with the two executives, delves into the struggles of Iger being half-in and half-out at Disney. Iger first rose to power during the decline of Disney CEO Michael Eisner. First lauded for his big-swing creative projects, by the early 2000s, Eisner was becoming hated inside the company, especially after the catastrophic failure of Euro Disney. Among the board members pushing him out was Roy E. Disney himself. In 2005, Eisner resigned, and Iger stepped in.

Like Eisner, Iger was a chief executive who prided himself on being aligned with the creatives in the company. He was also a believer in acquisitions, winning the rights to the Marvel and “Star Wars” franchises during his tenure. In 2020, after 15 years at the helm, Iger announced he was stepping down in favor of hand-picked successor Chapek, then the chairman of the Disney Parks division.


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This is where things got messy, Sherman reports. For one, the story claims Iger didn’t want to immediately vacate his Burbank office, allegedly because it had a private bathroom that he used frequently to shower in between workouts, office meetings and evening red-carpet events. But perhaps the most awkward anecdote comes from Iger’s 2021 goodbye party, which drew a range of celebrities from Iger’s star-studded social life, such as Steven Spielberg and Robin Roberts. 

“Iger reluctantly invited Chapek. When he found out Chapek had a speaking engagement at Walt Disney World set for that day, he was relieved, according to people familiar with his mindset at the time. He didn’t want Chapek to attend — and the feeling was mutual. Chapek’s first impulse was to decline. But he knew it would look terrible if he didn’t attend, so he canceled his plans in Orlando.”

At the time of Chapek’s abrupt cancellation in November 2021, there was media coverage of his no-show. “Bob has a conflict in Los Angeles on Friday night and couldn’t make it back to Orlando on time,” he said through a spokesperson.

The party was reportedly not a pleasant one for Chapek. “Iger sat next to Spielberg, while Chapek sat far away at the opposite table, visibly miserable,” CNBC reported. “It did not escape attendees that Iger thanked dozens of people in his speech — but not Chapek. It was humiliating, but Chapek told friends he felt relieved the tension was out in the open.”


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“The entire episode has also revealed the limitations of ‘Disney nice,’” Sherman wrote in reference to Disney’s famed workplace preference for polite and positive communication. “Avoiding face-to-face conflict, at least at the CEO and board level, fostered an environment where Iger and Chapek couldn’t hash out their differences.”

It’s not clear how long Iger will remain the lone chief executive of the Walt Disney Company. His contact was recently extended through the end of 2026, and CNBC reports the company expects to pick his successor sometime in 2025.

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