What’s next for Walt Disney Co. executive chairman Bob Iger after he leaves the company this year? He isn’t entirely sure … but he has no intention of sitting on the sidelines.
“I’m not retiring. I can’t possibly do that,” Iger told SiriusXM Business Radio’s Leadership Matters in an interview set to run April 6. “First of all, my wife’s still working, my kids are all out of the house. I’m not gonna sit around the house binge-watching television shows. And so I will figure it out, but I am not going to figure it out while I’m still at Disney and I’m not going to over-commit so that by the time I get out, I won’t have any freedom either. … I’d like a little bit more leisure time in my life. And I’d like more adventure, whatever that is.”
In the interview, excerpts of which were shared with The Hollywood Reporter, Iger also explained what precipitated his surprise departure as CEO of Disney a year ago, which saw parks chief Bob Chapek elevated, and led to the departure of direct-to-consumer chief Kevin Mayer.
“I did not want to overstay my welcome. I really wanted to leave at a time that felt good, that I had accomplished a lot, that I had not hit too many speed bumps, or suddenly that my luck would run out or all of those things. I wanted the timing to be right, and 15 years felt like enough,” Iger said. “And so what I proposed to the board — I know it felt abrupt because we kept this very quiet — but some months before the announcement I proposed to the board that I would stay on through the end of my tenure, which is the end of ’21, but in a different role.
“So I thought the best thing I could possibly do for the company would be one, make sure that we succeed at succession, and that my successor is successful,” he added. “And then second, leave the company and my successor with the greatest possible hand creatively. A pipeline of movies and television shows and theme park attractions and lands and you-name-it that would power the company for many years to come.”
Iger, who says he is thinking about writing another book after he leaves the company (his first book, The Ride of a Lifetime, was released in 2019) also says that he doesn’t expect to have a grand exit from the company he led for 15 years, though he does hope to get something of an official farewell.
“I imagine that in these next few months, I’ll end up slowly becoming less and less relevant,” he said, adding, “There are places I want to go, I hope to get to. I hope COVID allows me to say goodbye to people that have been so important in my career and my Disney life. You mentioned Shanghai at the beginning: We celebrate our fifth anniversary there this spring, and I’m intent on getting back there and seeing it one more time as a non-civilian.”