The last 135 days have been nothing short of a thrill ride for the Walt Disney Company. A company that prides itself on innovation, normalcy, fun, and family is not used to something this thrilling. 135 days ago, the Walt Disney Company stock price closed at an all time high of $151.64 per share. This marked a 600% increase in the 15 years since Bob Iger took over as CEO of the company.
The next 135 days would be nothing short of emotional highs and lows. Innovative rides opened at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios Park, Star Wars closed its final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, and Bob Iger announced he would be relinquishing CEO duties to his successor, Bob Chapek. Then, we got hit with one of the worst worldwide pandemics of the last 100 years and the entire world stopped moving.
All 6 Disney resorts around the world came to a screeching halt as doctors and contagious disease experts warned against groups larger than 10 people and recommended masks, isolation, and sanitation procedures. For a company that regularly hosts 100k+ people in its parks daily, this was less than ideal. A closure of all Disney theme parks and hotels quickly followed.
Now, 48 days since he gave up CEO duties, the New York Times reports Bob Iger has re-assumed control of the day to day operations of the company as the stock price is 2/3 of what it was 4.5 months ago. Moving forward into a world unknown is not something the board feels comfortable doing with rookie CEO Bob Chapek.
Save us Disney+, you’re our only hope
There is some positive news in the past few days, the international roll out of its streaming service Disney+ revealed a jump of 22 million subscribers since February, bringing its total to over 50 million subscribers.
Disney also owns a 67% stake in Hulu, which is still a US only subscriber base. An international roll out is planned for 2021. With all things in the universe, we must weigh the positives and the negatives. Disney has hedged a large chunk of its future in digital media and face to face experiences based on the digital media.
When we come out on the other side of this crisis, Disney will largely be the same, with some operational changes. Iger has mentioned that temperature screenings may be a path it takes in the months following the reopening of the parks (something I expect to happen June 1st, 2020).
In addition to this, I also expect a staged reopening. By this, I mean that capacity will be limited to a percentage of normal. With the economy making its trek back up the mountain, this will likely not be an issue for most people trying to book trips, as there will not be that many people doing so.
With doctors across the world and the CDC recommending the wearing of masks, we will likely see a mask requirement at security. Whether this is provided by Disney parks themselves or a mask for purchase program, don’t be shocked if you are not allowed in without wearing one.
Bob Chapek’s Duties
In the NYT article it was mentioned that Chapek was assured that the circumstances of his arrival as CEO would be taken into consideration when his performance is evaluated, it does beg the question, was he the right man for the job to begin with?
This has nothing to do with his abilities or performance, but when a CEO steps down after cancelling his resignation 4 other times, it does get you wondering if the right person has not come along yet. You can now add to that, Iger is now back in the saddle and Chapek is just along for the ride. Will he be the CEO moving forward, or will another successor arise in the ashes?
Iger has led the Walt Disney Company through almost all of its acquisitions over the last 20 years. A CEO as successful as him does not come around often in the business world. Will we see someone else at the helm in a year? Or will Chapek continue to be “the guy?” No one really knows, so that leaves us all to speculate. Leave your thoughts below, I’d love to hear them.