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Amid an unprecedented crisis, Bob Iger’s hopes of finally stepping away from the Walt Disney Co. were all but totally dashed.
Iger was in the midst of handing over the keys to the company after 15 years — and then the novel coronavirus pandemic rocked the world. Iger told the New York Times on Sunday he is working as hard as ever before.
“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!” he said in an email to media columnist Ben Smith.
It was announced in late February that Chapek would be the company’s next CEO and Iger would remain as executive chairman and will lead the board through his contract’s end Dec. 31, 2021. “No surprises…nothing hidden…nothing different or odd to speculate about…,” he wrote in an email to Smith about the timing of his decision.
In March, the novel coronavirus pandemic arrived stateside. Disney closed its North American parks and shopping districts, along with hotels, cruise lines and retail stores. Film and TV production was halted.
Iger has still been granting interviews to talk about plans for the future of the company. He told Barron’s that when parks reopen, guests may be required to have their temperatures checked before entering. Chapek has not given an interview since the pandemic struck.
On April 2, the company stated it would furlough employees “whose jobs are not necessary at this time,” beginning April 19. With all the parks and shopping districts closed, along with the hotels and stores, that number is expected to be extensive.
Disney also disclosed that its top executives would be taking pay cuts on base salaries. Iger is forgoing his entire base salary, while Chapek will take a 50 percent pay cut on his salary (though not his entire compensation package).
When asked about internal conversation about operating with less space and fewer people when the company can reopen its operations, Iger told the Times he had “no recollection of ever having said” that he expected a smaller work force. “Regardless, any decision about staff reductions will be made by my successor and not me.”
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