One of the biggest differences between me and many other people who cover this area is that I don’t subscribe to the “big man” theory of leadership. (I almost came up with the “big person” theory, but when I look at the last, oh, 90 years of entertainment, it’s been mostly men, a point Richard made yesterday.)
Whether it was the shots of Bob Chapek or Jason Kilarthe resignation of Richard Plepler or the setting of James Gunn/Peter Saffron, I mostly just shrug my shoulders. I just don’t think it’s as important as we think it is.
Usually it is due to lack of data/evidence, especially from the outside. Who gave the green light to which film? Who gave which disastrous grades? Who is secretly a monster for assistants and subordinates? Who is actually a team player with strategic vision? I just do not know. And believe me, I do NOT trust anonymous reporting of this either. (That says more about who’s comfortable with journalists than who’s performing.)
But this skepticism does not (repeat NOT) apply to Bob Iger.
Bob the First, also known as Bob I (as Richard called him) was the real thing, as I wrote when he resigned. He’s been at Disney long enough and has done so much that we can say: Yes, he excelled as CEO. Even if you attribute the creative rebound to others – a lot is possible John Lasseter at Pixar and Marvel Kevin Feig — Iger (with the support of the chief of strategy Kevin Mayer) bought these two companies! And gave Lasseter crucial oversight of all Disney animations when Disney desperately needed them. (I once created a fake metric “the Disney Princesses Creation Index– Lasseter/Iger brought Elsa, Anna, Tiana, Rapunzel, Moana and Merida into the Disney ecosystem. Bravo!)
No matter how you slice it, Iger had an exceptional first 15-year stint at Disney (erm, minus the deep resistance to succession planning). Stock price, sales growth, empire building, box office, profit, cash flow—everything grew. He crushed it.
So his return presumably heralded a new golden era for Disney?
Uh, I’m not so sure.
Many of the things that Eventually, former CEO Chapek was fired, which certainly had something to do with Chapek. We’ll be getting more of this filth in more articles with more anonymous sources over the next few days. But some factors were just bad timing and luck (and yes, the former CEO talk about you did not help).
But it’s been tough being in the entertainment business for the past two years!
The return of Iger, to use a sports analogy, is like when a team has the number one pick in the NFL draft (to pick a sport crucial to Iger’s tenure at Disney). When your team is number one and you call them up, the happiest day of their career is draft day. But have draft Baker Mayfield… or yeah caves? (A bust or a boom, for the non-soccer fans.)
This applies to Iger. Many people assume he can come in and “fix” Disney. The problem is that going through the list shows that not everyone expects Iger to make the same fixes, or in some cases people argue for conflicting fixes! I would argue that this is a lot of “express wishes‘, the portmanteau of ‘desire’ and ‘prediction’, which predicts people want happen, but it shouldn’t.
Today I will:
As Marvel and Lucasfilm have eroded by the need to provide streaming content.
Check out some of the others tough compromises overlooking Iger, from China to theme parks.
Identify M&A targets — including Roku!