For 100 years The Walt Disney Company has been a stalwart of the entertainment industry. Virtually since the day Mickey Mouse was born, the company has been reliably successful, with few bumps in the road. But the last few years have been unusual for the amount of corporate upheaval, with CEO Bob Iger, first leaving, then returning to replace the CEO that replaced him. A new report claims there were several reasons Iger made the decision to return, but one surrounded Scarlett Johansson’s infamous Black Widow lawsuit.
Back during the pandemic, Disney made the decision to release Black Widow and a number of other titles simultaneously in theaters-- as well as on Disney Plus as a Premiere Access title. This means it had an additional cost beyond the subscription required for viewing. The problem was that Johansson’s contract was tied to an exclusive box office release, and so she sued.
A new report from CNBC dives pretty deep into the battle at the top of Disney between Bobs Iger and Chapek, and it says that the Johansson situation was a big issue between them. It seems that part of the reason that the whole thing made it to the lawsuit stage was that each Bob thought it should be the other one’s problem. Chapek felt it was an issue with creative talent, which was the area Iger was supposed to be handling as Executive Chairman. Iger saw it as a contract dispute, and thus something Chapek should deal with as CEO.
Following the lawsuit, the story says there was a virtual meeting in which Bob Iger was in attendance, but did not speak. Iger apparently thought the meeting was “amateur hour” and a “meeting run by children” as there were far too many people giving input on how to handle the situation.
This feeling that each had that the other should be taking point apparently extended to how Disney handled the lawsuit in its earliest days. Apparently the initial response from Disney, which accused Scarlett Johansson of “a callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” was a statement that sources claim neither Chapek nor Iger was in favor of. But neither objected to the language of the statement, because each felt the other should be in charge of the problem.
The report indicates that Bob Iger had been questioning Chapek’s leadership abilities almost as soon as he was named the CEO of Disney. Iger himself reportedly feels now that he mistook Chapek’s operational capabilities for leadership qualities. He certainly wouldn’t be the first person to promote somebody past the area where their skills are best utilized.
Scarlett Johansson and Disney eventually settled the lawsuit, but clearly, the damage from it would go far beyond whatever it cost Disney in dollars. With Iger back at the help some internal issues may have been quelled, but it's still too early to tell what the long-term outlook is for the Mouse House.