Longtime Disney exec Bob Chapek has officially taken over Bob Iger’s role as CEO at The Walt Disney Company, according to a formal company announcement made on Tuesday. Although Chapek has been with Disney for nearly three decades, some Disney consumers may not have realized how much of a powerful force he has been at the media giant.
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From spearheading unique film and entertainment initiatives to conceptualizing some of Disney’s resorts and attractions across the globe – Chapek’s portfolio and accomplishments are impressive. Here are five facts about the new CEO that you should be aware of.
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1. He has worked for Disney for 27 years
Chapek began working at The Walt Disney Company in 1993. Since then, he has climbed up the ranks in various segments of the media giant. Chapek cultivated his business chops as the President of Distribution for The Walt Disney Studios, where he oversaw content distribution strategy for theatrical releases, home entertainment, pay TV, digital entertainment and emerging media.
He later became President of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, where he created the limited-release “Disney Vault” concept and the advancement of Disney films on Blu-ray discs over standard DVD formats.
From 2011 to 2015, he was the President of Disney Consumer Products, where he drove “technology-led transformation” across consumer products, retail and publishing operations. He later graduated to the role of Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2015 and then again as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in 2018, where led growth across Disney’s six resort destinations, several theme parks, cruise line and other travel businesses.
2. He has international experience
Chapek made his mark being an instrumental part of growing Disney’s presence and influence abroad. He worked on the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016, which took five years to construct and cost Disney a whopping $5.5 billion for the 963-acre property.
Under his leadership, Disneyland Paris has undergone massive development projects to improve the 5,510-acre space. Chapek also played a pivotal role in integrating Marvel-inspired attractions across Disney’s parks worldwide.
For a time, he also ran Disney’s global product, retail and e-commerce operations.
3. He worked on Star Wars: Galaxy Edge
Chapek developed the elaborate Star Wars: Galaxy Edge attractions at both the Orlando-based Walt Disney World Resort and the Anaheim-based Disneyland Resort, which launched last year. The massive 14-acre attraction in Disneyland cost an estimated $1 billion, according to a report USA Today, and CNBC has suggested that the price tag of Disney World’s attraction may be the same.
The investments were certainly ambitious, but reports have circulated regarding the attractions’ underperformance and guest complaints about long wait times.
“We got over a million people through the attraction over at Disneyland so we’re learning and it’s operating extremely well…so the fact that we don’t have backup lines is actually going according to plan,” Chapek told reporters at the Inside the Magic blog regarding guest complaints in August. “That’s not a great guest experience, so we don’t define success as 10-hour waits. We define success as great guest experiences.”
“We like to move people through and have a great time,” Chapek continued. “Most of all, I think our guests are having a great time in California, and they’ll have a great time here.”
4. He was unanimously chosen as Disney’s next CEO
Disney’s sixth CEO, Iger, announced he would step down from his position last year with an effective date at the end of 2021. However, before this news was made public, The Walt Disney Company was hard at work trying to find Iger’s successor.
“The Board has been actively engaged in succession planning for the past several years, and after consideration of internal and external candidates, we unanimously elected Bob Chapek as the next CEO of The Walt Disney Company,” said Susan Arnold, an independent Lead Director of the Disney Board, in an official statement.
“Mr. Chapek has shown outstanding leadership and a proven ability to deliver strong results across a wide array of businesses, and his tremendous understanding of the breadth and depth of the Company and appreciation for the special connection between Disney and its consumers makes him the perfect choice as the next CEO,” she continued. “Mr. Chapek will also benefit from the guidance of one of the world’s most esteemed and successful business leaders, Bob Iger.”
5. He is close to Disney CEO Bob Iger
Chapek and Iger share more than a first name, they have worked closely together during their tenure at Disney. And have powered through two of Orlando’s heart-wrenching, back-to-back events of 2016 – the PULSE nightclub shooting of June 12 and the deathly alligator attack of two-year-old Lane Graves at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
In the prologue of Iger’s 2019 memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” he referenced Chapek’s support after news of the PULSE night club shooting reached the executive team.
“Our head of Parks and Resorts, Bob Chapek, was also in Shanghai, and he and I consulted throughout the day as Ron passed on more news. We were still anxiously waiting to hear if any of our people had been at the nightclub, and now we're concerned that the news of our being a target would soon be leaked. It would be a big story and would take a difficult emotional toll on the community there,” Iger wrote. “The bond you form in high-stress moments like this, when you’re sharing information that you can’t discuss with anyone else, is a powerful one.”
“In every emergency I’ve encountered as CEO, I’ve been grateful for the competence and cool heads and humanity of the team around me,” Iger continued. “Bob’s first move was to send the head of Walt Disney World, George Kalogridis, back to Orlando from Shanghai to give his people on the ground more executive support.”
Hours later, Iger said the executive team learned of the unfortunate passing of Graves, which he admitted reduced him to tears – especially after he spoke to the parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, who asked the then CEO to make sure the tragedy never happens to another family on Disney’s property.
“Eventually I called my team and said to meet me in the hotel lounge. I knew if I described the conversation to them, I would start crying again, so I kept it short and told Bob Chapek what I’d promised Matt Graves,” Iger wrote. “‘We’re on it,’ Bob said, and sent word back to his team in Orlando right away (What they did there was remarkable. There are hundreds of lagoons and canals on the property and thousands of alligators. Within twenty-four hours they had ropes and fences and signs up throughout the park, which is twice the size of Manhattan.)”