Even the most well-informed Hollywood insiders were shocked when Disney CEO Bob Iger suddenly stepped down in late February. He remained as chairman of the company, but named Bob Chapek as the new chief executive officer. Chapek was running the parks division — and technically still is because the company has yet to name a replacement for that role.
When Iger resigned, Shanghai Disneyland was already closed due to COVID-19. Other Disney parks, cruises and hotels were scheduled to follow suit. For Chapek, that was not an easy start to the job.
Earlier this week, Ben Smith wrote in a New York Times column that Iger has “effectively returned to running the company.” While all of Hollywood has been battered by the pandemic, Disney has been hit especially hard because it had to close all its theme parks and resorts. Bringing Iger back into the fold would mean a reassuring presence for the company, and perhaps an attempt to quell rumors that Iger bailed when he saw coronavirus coming.
Disney has not officially responded to the claim that Iger is back, though the company did report that Chapek is now joining the Board of Directors — a move some analysts thought wouldn’t happen until a few months down the road.
Another concern for the company is the massive amount of debt it’s facing. Disney bought Fox for more than $70 billion last year, and it’s not clear if that purchase was worth it. They couldn’t have seen the pandemic coming, and Fox properties like “The Simpsons” bring value to the streaming service Disney+. Recently Disney secured an additional $13 billion in credit, just in case they need it for future expenses.