Late Sunday night, Disney shockingly announced that Bob Iger was reappointed as chief executive, effective immediately.  Bob Iger, one of the most successful CEOs in the history of The Walt Disney Company, is returning to once again run the media empire, after his hand-picked successor as CEO, Bob Chapek, was fired. Bob Chapek, who replaced Iger in 2020 as CEO, is stepping down immediately, after he came under fire for his management. It appeared that Iger who was set in retirement with his legacy as one of Disney’s most notable and successful CEOs, is now back. 

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board for Disney, said in a statement on Sunday night. “The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period.”

Investors seemed to have embraced the news as Disney shares went up 9% Monday after the stock had lost roughly 36% of its value this year. Iger, who had a long successful tenure with Disney, spent 15 years as CEO and was instrumental in acquiring major brands like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars). Iger was also responsible for closing the $71 billion deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox, also kicked off the streaming revolution at Disney with the creation of Disney + in November 2019.

The announcement, while surprising to the media industry, comes at a time of great evolution for Disney. According to CNN Business, Disney’s fourth quarter earnings were a mix of good and bad news for the company. Although the company added 12.1 million new Disney+ subscribers, Disney missed projections for other aspects of its business, including revenue.  Disney’s streaming business lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter. That report sent Disney’s stock tumbling after a year of sluggish-to-bad performance.

bob-chapek-l-was-named-disney-ceo-replacing Bob Chapek (L) Bob Iger (R) GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GERARDO MORA GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GERARDO MORA

Chapek had a short tenure as the head of Disney --with issues including his non-payment of Black Widow star Scarlett Johanson, the controversial battles with Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, angering Pixar employees and stock’s poor performance. While Chapek did come on during tumultuous circumstances at the onset of the pandemic --with theaters shutting down-- there was no film production, parks and cruises were also shut down. Chapek guided Disney through the pandemic, one of the most tumultuous periods in the company’s nearly 100-year history, but ultimately Disney decided that its future would improve in the hands of Iger.

Chapek, who served as chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products before taking over for Iger, found himself dealing with Disney’s battles with Florida, and its own employees, regarding the state’s controversial bill restricting certain LGBTQ topics in the classroom. In March, he was forced to apologize for his silence on Florida’s controversial bill after initially declining to comment on it. His public stance was in stark contrast to Iger, who took a public stance against the Florida bill. 

“A lot of these issues are not necessarily political,” Iger told CNN host Chris Wallace in March. “It’s about right and wrong. So, I happen to feel and I tweeted an opinion about the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida. To me, it wasn’t about politics. It is about what is right and what is wrong, and that just seemed wrong. It seemed potentially harmful to kids.”

The announcement is also surprising since Chapek had just renewed his contract. In June, the company’s board of directors unanimously voted to extend Chapek’s contract as CEO for another three years. Chapek’s new contract began in July and was set to run until 2025. 

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” Iger said in a statement Sunday. “Disney and its incomparable brands and franchises hold a special place in the hearts of so many people around the globe — most especially in the hearts of our employees, whose dedication to this company and its mission is an inspiration.”

Iger added that he is deeply honored to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivaled, bold storytelling.”