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Bob Iger Town Hall for cast members was cautiously optimistic

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

On Day 1 of his return to The Walt Disney Company, CEO Bob Iger held a town hall for Disney cast members to address concerns and answer questions – and while Iger was careful not to commit to too much right off the bat, the overall tone was certainly optimistic.

Bob Iger

“I stand here today with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility and excitement,” Iger told the audience of Disney executives and cast members. “I know that this has been an incredibly challenging time and an awful lot has been asked of you. Now that I have assumed this role again, I do have a sense of priorities, but I also feel a sense of urgency. There’s a lot that we have to do – and quickly.”

Labeling himself an “eternal optimist,” Iger noted the history of the 100-year-old company has demonstrated its ability to be resilient, and so he said, “that’s what we are going to be now; we are going to be resilient.”

Cast members in the room and online didn’t hold back when asking their questions, but Iger was cautious not to make any promises. After all, he joked, this is only his first day on the job.

What Did Bob Say?

Park Reservation System – Iger noted that, while he has not personally used the park reservation system, he knows it’s received mixed reviews. Understandably, he did not commit to keeping nor eliminating the controversial system at Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland.

Before I make any judgment about it, I want to hear more from [Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products] Josh D’Amaro and have a better perspective.

Lake Nona Project (and the move of Walt Disney Imagineering from California to Florida) – Iger said he’s aware the planned move has been delayed at least a year (to 2026) but has not yet been updated with details about who’s moving, what the ramifications are, what the pluses are, and what the minuses are.

I don’t in any way mean to indicate reversing the decision that was made, but it’s something I will look into.

Hiring Freeze – Regarding the hiring freeze recently announced by former CEO Bob Chapek, Iger said he’s aware of the policy but has no plans to reverse it. He did say, however, that it needs to be considered in terms of length of time.

I felt like it was a wise thing to do, given the challenges. At the moment I don’t have any plans to change it.

Acquiring Additional Companies – When asked whether Disney will acquire other companies (as they did with Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, and 20th Century Fox), Iger said there are no current plans to add to the Disney portfolio.

We have a great set of assets here. Nothing is forever, but I’m very, very comfortable with the set of assets that we have. I think they can serve our company and our shareholders well for a long time, and there’s no sense of urgency – or even interest – right now in acquiring anything more, so don’t expect that as a headline anytime soon.

And as for the rumor that Iger is planning to sell the Walt Disney Company to Apple?

After qualifying that he “never” comments about acquisitions, divestitures, or mergers, Iger did say this:

What you’ve read about in that regard is just pure speculation. It’s not rooted in any fact whatsoever.

During the Town Hall, Iger shared that he established three priorities when he originally became Disney CEO in 2005:

  1. Spend capital on high-quality branded content
  2. Embrace technology to tell better stories, reach people in compelling ways, and make the company more efficient
  3. International growth

Now, as he “boomerangs” back into the role in 2022, he’s streamlined his top priorities to two:

  1. Creativity – “Creativity is what drives this company. Every transaction this company makes emanates from some form of creativity, and therefore it is my number one priority. It’s [also] not about how much we create, it’s about how great the things are that we do create.”
  2. Profitability –  “We’ve got to come to grips with two things: one is the state of the world economically and second is what is now expected of us among the investors or in the investment community. When I left we were being measured on […] our growth but that has shifted to being measured by the bottom line. In order to achieve that, we have to take a very, very hard look at our cost structure across our businesses. So that is a priority of mine.”

“This company will be 100 years old in 2023 – that’s an extraordinary accomplishment,” Iger said in his closing statement. “I’m not a huge believer in in being stuck in the past, but I do think the past in many ways can be a beacon to tell you or show you what the future could look like. I would not have come back if I didn’t believe that the future of this company is bright. We have things that we have to address. It’s a challenging world. But we have the people, we have the wherewithal, and we have the resolve to do it.”

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