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It appears that Bob Iger might have a future in public service after all. The Disney executive chairman, who once toyed with the idea of a 2020 presidential run, is at the top of President-elect Joe Biden’s wish list for a key ambassador post, namely China or the U.K., sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The U.K. ambassadorship is considered the most plum diplomatic assignment, and China is an intriguing possibility given Disney’s footprint in the Middle Kingdom. Either would be a fitting next act for the most successful Hollywood CEO of the modern era. A Biden spokesperson and Disney rep both declined comment.
If Iger, 69, is offered a post and accepts, it would mark the end of his stunning 25-year run at Disney. On Feb. 25, he shocked Wall Street when he announced that he was stepping down as Disney CEO and into the role of executive chairman. Bob Chapek, who was named his successor, has overseen perhaps the most turbulent nine months in the company’s history, with the pandemic ravaging Disney’s theme parks and theatrical movie business. Iger’s contract is up Dec. 31, 2021.
Considering Hollywood’s broad support of Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign, it should come as no surprise that the president-elect would be looking to reciprocate. Sources say Jeffrey Katzenberg, a prolific Democratic donor, also is in the mix for an ambassadorship.
Likewise, producer Matt Walden, husband of Walt Disney Television chairman Dana Walden, is being eyed for an ambassador post for a European country. (Matt Walden has a 30-year friendship with Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.) At least one studio already has lost a key player to the Biden administration.
On Dec. 10, Susan Rice stepped down from the Netflix board to join the president-elect’s team to run the White House Domestic Policy Council. And Nicole Avant, former ambassador to the Bahamas during the Obama administration and wife of Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos, is seeking a return to diplomatic life and is in line for a post.
Iger was a top Hollywood donor to Biden’s presidential campaign. He gave $250,000 to The Biden Victory Fund, according to public records. Katzenberg, who hosted multiple events for the candidate during the campaign, gave $617,800 to the same fund.
Woody Johnson, the billionaire co-owner of the New York Jets, has held the U.K. ambassador post since 2017. If Iger is the ultimate choice and accepts, he would succeed Johnson and join an illustrious list that includes Joseph Kennedy. It also wouldn’t preclude a presidential bid in his future. Six U.S. presidents served as U.K. ambassador, including John Adams and James Buchanan.
Historically, the path between Hollywood and Washington is a two-way street, says Reed Galen, co-founder of The Lincoln Project, noting that figures like Hollywood financier turned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have made the jump. “You’ve traditionally seen those who raise bundles get ambassadorships. And everyone wants to go to the Court of St. James,” he says in a reference to the U.K. post being the most coveted. “Unlike the people Trump put up, these people will be more credible.”
This story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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