Just a few days ago, the Disney board effectively fired CEO Bob Chapek and, at lightning speed, brought back Bob Iger, who has run Disney for a decade and a half. The board’s decision was out of character with public company governance. It did not talk to any other candidates. Iger has been paid millions of dollars to support Chapek’s success, and Iger is responsible for many of Disney’s problems. Iger used to be Disney’s board chair. He may want that job back so that his influence on Disney’s future would extend to the board’s operations. If so, Disney chair Susan Arnold will be pushed out.
The fate of Arnold is not mere conjecture. As board chair, she runs the body that Iger reports to. The board is made up of 12 directors, including Iger. They set his compensation, whether he will keep his job and who his successor will be. This is despite the fact that one of Iger’s tasks is to find someone to run the company two years from now. The board has to approve his recommendation.
Iger could make the case to his fellow directors that Arnold does not have the credentials to run the board during what it hopes will be a turnaround of the company’s fortunes. Her business experience is highlighted by several senior jobs she held at Procter & Gamble, where she never became CEO. In the past, she served on the board of McDonald’s. She left that job in 2016.
Arnold took the board chair job when Iger retired. Several of the most qualified people for the job are heads of other large companies. They do not have the time to steer the Disney board in a difficult period. These include GM board chair and CEO Mary Barra, Oracle President Safra Catz and Mark Parker, the executive board chair of Nike. Parker could have been the most likely candidate to take the board chair job from Iger, based on his current job and experience.
Should Iger move into the board chair role at Disney, it probably will happen soon. There is some logic to controlling Disney entirely as he undertakes the difficult task of improving its results.
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