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Timothy L. O'Brien

Crash Course: Disney Vs. the Battle of the Bobs

Iconic CEOs are hard to find. So are successors to iconic CEOs.

Why did Bob Iger come back? And will he regret it?

Why did Bob Iger come back? And will he regret it?

Photographer: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

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Imagine you’re Bob Iger. You relinquish Disney’s CEO suite in 2020 with a sterling legacy intact. Smart, game-changing acquisitions. A good culture. Steady, imaginative leadership. Soaring profits and a jumbo stock price. And a sort of bet-the-ranch move into streaming that puts profit-making aside in favor of reinventing the entertainment platform your business rests upon. All is going swimmingly when you turn things over to your successor, Bob Chapek. You title your autobiography “The Ride of a Lifetime.” What a way to go. Then, boom: Covid lockdowns hit just weeks after you step down. Disney’s business sputters. Chapek alienates your team and the board. And that streaming bet unravels. What do you do? You roll back in as CEO less than three years after you left the company. How often does something like that happen? Like, never. Even Steve Jobs waited 11 years to make his roundtrip as Apple’s CEO.