08 December 2022 |

Bob Iger’s return to Disney: what will his next moves be?

By Adam Ryan

Bob Iger recently made waves when he announced he would return to Disney as CEO. His welcome back was like Jordan coming out of retirement. He looked refreshed, the excitement only increased, and the confidence to win never faded. 

What was Iger’s flagship takeaway during his last reign at the House of Mouse? Own the best IP in the world and treat his creatives like gold. Oh, and have a sense of humor.

Iger convinced Stan Lee (Marvel), Steve Jobs (Pixar), and George Lucas (Star Wars) to pass their beloved companies to Disney. That didn’t take cash to get that deal done. It took empathy. It took trust. It took Iger. 

People trust and love Bob Iger. He laughs more than he yells and lives to make a deal. He surrounds himself with people that counter his weaknesses and push the business forward. He always sets up his team to win. 

But now, he’s walking into a very different Disney than the one he left. His massive success with streaming when he left is now being questioned. The theater business is falling apart. And, well let’s, not get started on cruise ships. 

So what will his moves be? 

He’ll do what he always does. He’ll make a deal and bring in the best IP.

Kevin Mayer, the former Chief Strategy Officer under Iger, and Tom Staggs, the former Chief Operation Officer under Iger, founded Candle Media in 2021. 

As Co-CEO’s, in less than two years, they have acquired some of the best IP in the world – mostly around children’s content. If you have children, you don’t need to be explained what Cocomelon or Blippi is. If you don’t have children, imagine the greatest enjoyment of your life and something you can’t stop watching – that is how every toddler feels about those shows. 

In addition, they acquired ATTN, Hello Sunshine (Reese Witherspoon’s production agency), Notables, and more. They essentially have a royal flush of family and children entertainment IP. 

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Of course, Iger should acquire Candle. It makes total sense. It’ll probably cost $8-10B. It would set up Disney+ to raise their prices because their streaming service will essentially become a babysitting service and expand the addressable market of their content (most content they host isn’t perfect for children under 2). 

But the cost of the content isn’t what you’re buying. You’re buying Iger’s successors.

Iger won’t and probably doesn’t want to run Disney for five more years. He just needs to right the ship during a downturn. Part of that process will be finding the team to take over. 

Staggs and Mayer are the teams to do it. Similar to Netflix, the company can run with Co-CEOs and be set up for another 20+ year run. 

What would hold this deal back? Ego and feelings.

Iger hurt Kevin Mayer’s feelings. Mayer was, in many eyes, the chosen one. He led Disney+ and streaming. His vision created the digital footprint of Disney. But Iger handpicked Chapek over Mayer for his CEO spot. Mayer left shortly after. 

If this deal happens, two things are going to have to happen: the acquisition terms it sets a predetermined date of transition with Staggs & Mayer becoming Co-CEOs, AND Iger has to use his charm to get Mayer back on his good side.

Give it 18 months, and if something is announced, it’ll happen. If not, stubbornness and ego took over.