‘There is a lot to do’: Bob Iger outlines vision for Disney as he returns as CEO

<span>Photograph: Phil Mccarten/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Phil Mccarten/Reuters

Returning Disney boss Bob Iger told employees that he will prioritize creativity and profitability at a staff meeting at the company’s Burbank headquarters on Monday – outlining a shift from a costly streaming services growth strategy pursued by his predecessor, who was dramatically ousted from the company eight days ago.

Iger, 71, held the top Disney job from 2005 to 2020. After a two-year break, he was reinstated after the company ousted Bob Chapek following an earnings report that showed the company lost close to $1.5bn in just three months on its streaming services platform.

“There is a lot to do,” Iger said at the meeting heralding his official return. “Quickly.” His entry was met with an ovation and applause. Iger responded by saying he thought he might cry.

Iger, who purchased Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox for Disney during his last run as CEO, said that rumors of a merger or hook-up with Apple were “pure speculation not rooted in any fact” and the company would not be looking to make any big acquisitions at any time soon.

“Nothing is forever, but I’m very comfortable with the set of assets that we have,” he said.

The Disney veteran faces a difficult task. He must restore morale at the company, particularly at its studio and streaming creative divisions. Disney’s theme park cast members will also need cheering after Disney under Chapek got into a bruising dust-up with Florida governor Ron DeSantis over that state’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws.

Iger said that the company’s LGBT employees are very important and that the company cares deeply about them. But he acknowledged that responding to politics can be challenging. “We’re not going to make everybody happy all the time, and we’re not going to try to,” he said. “It’s complicated. There’s a balance. We do what we believe is right.”

Prioritizing Disney’s creativity, Iger said he believed working in the office leads to better creativity and teamwork. But he offered no proclamation on an end to post Covid work-from-home arrangements. “There is tremendous value of working in the same place,” Iger said. “I’m going to spend a lot of time here, and I hope it is not lonely,” he added.

But the chief executive also said that he did not plan to lift a hiring freeze at Disney and that the company would take cost-cutting measures seriously. Disney Plus, like other streaming services, has poured billions into content only to find that post-pandemic lockdowns subscribers are expensive to acquire and often difficult to keep.