This has been a very bizarre year for everyone, but especially for Disney leadership. Longtime CEO Bob Iger stepped down in February — but then almost immediately retook most of the CEO from newly-christened CEO Bob Chapek — and people have been bouncing around (and out of) the leadership structure of the company far more in the last 9 months than they have in the previous several years.
Today brings the biggest shakeup yet — yes, more Iger stepping down as CEO — and that’s the news that Kevin Mayer has resigned to go become CEO of TikTok, the short video platform that’s been gaining subscribers during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. This is great news for TikTok, but it’s a blow to Disney at a time when confidence could be higher.
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Mayer’s success with Disney+, as well as other digital strategies over the last few years, had not gone unnoticed by shareholders or executives, and many thought he was being groomed as Iger’s replacement for CEO. Instead, that job went to Bob Chapek, who previously oversaw Disney Parks and has drawn the ire of many fans for what I’m just going to call a lack of vision and leave it at that.
What Mayer should be remembered for — possibly more than for bringing us the Disney streaming service that most Disney fans have spent 15 years awaiting for — is that before he headed Direct to Consumer & International, Mayer was chief strategy officer for several years, helping Disney purchase Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox. He helped Disney build the most compelling collection of content — especially family-friendly content — on the market to date.
This man helped make Leia a Disney princess and helped lay the groundwork for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for that, I will forever be grateful.
CEO Chapek commented on Mayer’s departure, saying:
“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years, most recently as head of our direct-to-consumer business. He has done a masterful job of overseeing and growing our portfolio of streaming services, while bringing together the creative and technological assets required to launch the hugely successful Disney+ globally. Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship and wish him tremendous success going forward.”
Replacing Mayer as chairman of Direct to Consumer & International will be Rebecca Campbell, who was only promoted to president of Disneyland Resort last year — a reward for how she previously managed Disney Park’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations. I’m a fan of Campbell’s and looking forward to seeing what she does with what will be Disney’s most important sector in 2020-2021.
Also announced today, the president of Walt Disney World Resort Josh D’Amaro has been named chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, filling the vacancy left by Chapek’s promotion to CEO. This is the division of Disney hardest-hit by the pandemic — and its employees, as over 100,000 Disney Parks employees are currently furloughed — and the timetable on when Disney’s U.S parks might be re-opening is still unclear. I will say I’m more optimistic about the parks division under D’Amaro’s purview as D’Amaro’s done pretty well in his time here in Florida.