Here's what Bob Iger's return as Disney CEO means for the company's theme parks
- Bob Chapek's tenure as Disney CEO abruptly ended, and Bob Iger will resume the role.
- A former Parks exec, Chapek angered many theme park fans by jacking up prices and axing free services.
Bob Chapek's relatively short and contentious tenure as Disney's CEO came to an abrupt end on Sunday night after the media giant announced it had replaced him with former CEO Bob Iger.
Chapek's time at Disney was marked by criticism of his handling of Disney's theme parks and park employees, and many Disney fans took to social media to celebrate Iger's return.
Once the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts before stepping into the CEO role in 2020, Chapek led Disney's theme parks to record revenues by increasing costs of admission and food prices and offering fewer services, angering some Disney-goers in the process.
Under Chapek, price increases for park tickets and food outpaced inflation, and Disney began charging for previously free offerings, like specific shuttles to the parks and its FastPass service that allowed park attendees to cut certain lines.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Disney parks' ride stoppages and wait times had grown under Chapek's term, potentially worsening the experience for park-goers, even as they paid higher ticket prices.
Earlier this year, Chapek also took heat from many of the company's employees in Florida for his initial silence in the wake of Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill.
Chapek later addressed the backlash, writing to employees, "I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities."
Can Iger save the day?
Iger's initial 15-year run as CEO was celebrated by many Disney shareholders and fans, though he had more time than Chapek to see his projects through. He expanded the company's theme park offerings – opening an Avatar world, Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and Shanghai Disneyland – all while keeping many services comparatively low-cost or free.
Laura Martin, an analyst who covers Disney at Needham, said in a Monday note that Iger will have a more "deft hand at handling contentious external issues such as the "don't say gay" drama in FL, where DIS has over 100,000 park employees."
She also predicted that the "exodus of competent people" from Disney would stop under Iger's leadership.
Not all Disney watchers believe Iger will radically change the direction Chapek had led Disney's theme parks, though.
Joseph Bonner, an analyst who covers Disney at Argus, wrote to Insider that he thinks the "parks are just fine" the way they had been run under Chapek.
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