Disney: What Happened And What Happens Next

Clear succession plan becomes question mark
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Just when it appeared that the Walt Disney Co. would have a CEO succession that ended happily ever after, the company reverted to form and sent another heir apparent packing.

On Monday, the company that Mickey Mouse built said COO Tom Staggs, who won a bake off with former CFO Jay Rasulo to replace CEO Bob Iger, was leaving. Next up? Who knows. What happened?

According to analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein, the board declined to assure Staggs he would get the CEO job. In fact, instead of simply considering candidates from inside the company, the board wanted to broaden its search before Iger’s contract expires in 2018.

Juenger  said  in a report that there was no specific failure to pin on Staggs. There has been some anxiety about the launch of Shanghai Disney and Staggs’ choice to run merchandizing at Disney’s movie didn’t work out.

 “Staggs was well-like by investors, and every indication is that he was well-like within the Disney rank-and-file as well,” Juenger said. “Which on one hand shows the enormity of this decision for the board. The path of least resistance was clearly to ascend Mr. Staggs to CEO upon Mr. Iger’s retirement. No one would have complained or accused the board of not serving the interests of shareholders.”

But Juenger adds that Iger is a tough act to follow. Who could the company turn to now? Juenger offers no names, but points to speculation in trade publications including Variety.

Some of those names include

  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO  of Facebook and a Disney director.
  • Former 21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey
  • Former News Corp. president Peter Chernin
  • CBS CEO Les Moonves.

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