Bob Iger Replaces Bob Chapek in Surprise Return as Disney CEO: I'm 'Thrilled to Be Asked' Back

Bob Iger
Bob Iger

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Bob Iger

Less than a year after marking his last day with the company, Bob Iger is back as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

His predecessor, Bob Chapek stepped down from the role, Disney announced Sunday, adding that Iger's return is effective immediately and he agreed to be CEO for two years.

"I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO," Iger, who was previously CEO from 2005 to 2020, said in a press release. "Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe — most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration."

He added, "I am deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling."

Iger, 71, officially passed the position to Chapek back in February 2020. Chapek, 62, previously served as chairperson of Disney's parks business. Iger stayed on as chairman of the board at Disney until the end of 2021 when his contract concluded.

RELATED: Disney CEO Bob Chapek Apologizes for 'Painful' Silence amid Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill: 'I Let You Down'

Bob Chapek
Bob Chapek

Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Bob Chapek

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Susan Arnold, chairman of the board, said in a statement Sunday, "We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period."

"Mr. Iger has the deep respect of Disney's senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide — all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership," she added.

Earlier this month, Chapek said in a memo to employees, according to CNN Business, that Disney would be implementing cost-cutting measures like a hiring freeze and "some small staff reductions."

In March, he apologized to Disney employees for the company's inaction in response to Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill (HB 1557) that prohibits discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in primary school classrooms. (Disney employs tens of thousands of people at Walt Disney World in Orlando.) He said "our silence" on the matter was "painful," and said Disney would be "increasing [their] support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states."

Back in September 2021, Scarlett Johansson and Disney reached a settlement in her lawsuit against the company over her compensation for Marvel's Black Widow. She had sued, accusing the company of breaching her contract when it released her Marvel movie on its Disney+ streaming service at the same time it was released in theaters. She had claimed her Black Widow contract was for a guaranteed exclusive movie theater release, with the bulk of her salary depending on the box office performance.

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Last December, Iger told Variety he had "no interest in running another company." He said at the time, "I officially became CEO on October 1, 2005, and I really have not had a day off since. Not a day off. I'm looking forward to what I'll call a true day off. And I'm not talking about a day on my boat where I'm answering emails all day and screening rough cuts."

In that interview, Iger also shared what he thought Chapek needed to focus on moving forward with the company.

"Bob has to make a lot of those decisions himself," said Iger. "As the world changes and continues to be disruptive, he will be faced with circumstances, challenges and opportunities that are going to be very different than those I've been faced with. ... He's going to have to have the ability to adapt to a changing time. I'm not presuming he has to do this a certain way. The one thing I have exhorted Bob and everybody else at the company to do is to keep those creative fires burning."