When Bob Iger stepped down as CEO of Disney in early 2020, he butted heads with his handpicked successor, Bob Chapek. But we really didn’t know just how bad — and how petty — some of the things Iger did to express his unhappiness with Chapek’s decisions were until now.
This report from CNBC gives us a glimpse at what went on behind the scenes at Disney, spanning from Chapek’s appointment as CEO in 2020 to Iger’s eventual takeover in 2022 — and let me tell you, some of the drama that went on here is akin to Cinderella with CEOs. Here are the pettiest moments we learned about.
Keeping the big office with the private bathroom
Despite his departure as CEO, CNBC reports that Iger wasn’t ready to give up his “expansive” office at Disney’s Burbank, California, headquarters. After all, he would remain as Disney’s executive chair for the next 22 months.
The office came with a private shower that Iger reportedly used following his 4AM workouts. On days when Iger would have to attend an event later on, he would take another shower in the office. Iger told Chapek “that he lived for those ‘two-shower days,’” according to CNBC. Meanwhile, Chapek was left with a smaller, showerless office on the same floor.
As reported by CNBC, Iger’s office bathroom had some choice decor, including a framed collage containing newspaper and magazine clippings about Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. There was also a modified movie poster of Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction, which follows an assassin who exits retirement to take on one final job, that replaced “Eiger” with “Iger.”
Instantly regretting Chapek’s appointment as CEO
Iger started regretting the decision to make Chapek CEO as early as two weeks after Chapek’s appointment, according to CNBC. When Iger, Chapek, and other Disney executives flew to North Carolina for Disney’s annual meeting, CNBC reports that Iger gave Chapek the unexpected task of leading the question-and-answer session instead of Iger — even though the new CEO had only attended one annual meeting in his 27 years at Disney.
CNBC reports that following two hours of “general preparation” with Iger, Chapek went to a private area at the back of the plane to study the information he needed to know. Iger apparently didn’t like that. He reportedly told his friends that’s when he realized “he may have made a mistake,” as he thought Chapek would “work with him side by side for the next 22 months” instead of doing his own thing.
Getting mad at Chapek for not involving him in company decisions
Even as executive chair, Iger was reportedly miffed at Chapek for not including him in company decisions. CNBC reports that Iger privately vented to friends that he “felt like he was on a bus that the other passengers wanted him to drive but he couldn’t reach the steering wheel.” Iger surmised that Chapek wouldn’t be the “obedient lieutenant” that Iger became to his predecessor, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.
Taking credit for running Disney during the pandemic
In the midst of the covid pandemic, a report from The New York Times suggested that Iger had “effectively returned to running the company” even after Chapek’s appointment as CEO. Iger didn’t deny this claim, writing in an email to the Times: “A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!”
This didn’t sit well with Chapek, CNBC reports, who called up Iger and said he “didn’t need a savior.”
Failing to step in during Disney’s conflict with Scarlett Johansson
In 2021, the Chapek-controlled Disney stirred up issues with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson when it revealed its plans to release the Marvel film in theaters and on Disney Plus for an added charge. But Johansson’s contract didn’t account for a streaming release, leading to a lawsuit that Chapek reportedly thought Iger would handle, as he had a “long relationship” with her agent and “knew Johansson.”
Despite these connections, Iger didn’t step in. According to CNBC, Iger believed the situation was a “clear business matter” and that “if Chapek wanted to be CEO, he should be CEO.” Iger also didn’t speak up during a meeting Disney held with its lawyers, with CNBC reporting that he believed the discussions felt like “amateur hour.”
While both Iger and Chapek eventually signed off on a public statement about Johansson’s lawsuit, CNBC says neither approved of its harsh tone, which implied the actor was just after more money. However, CNBC says neither Iger nor Chapek “stopped its release because each believed the other should be in charge.” Iger reportedly told Chapek to issue a public apology, but Chapek declined — sources tell CNBC that Iger didn’t even think about apologizing.
Not mentioning Chapek during his goodbye party
When Iger held a retirement party for himself, CNBC reports that he “reluctantly” invited Chapek, who canceled his plans in order to attend the gathering. During Iger’s speech, he noticeably left out Chapek, who sat away from Iger while “visibly miserable.”
Privately talking to Disney executives after his retirement
Even after Iger stepped down as executive chair in December 2021, Chapek still couldn’t shake his influence. Iger still spoke with current and former Disney executives about Chapek and the company’s future, some of whom asked him to return to the company, CNBC reports. Additionally, Iger reportedly met with Kristina Schake, Disney’s newly appointed chief communications officer, which CNBC says Chapek viewed as “dining with the enemy.”
Taking Chapek’s ideas for Disney’s linear networks
On top of all of this, Iger recently hinted at selling some of Disney’s linear channels — an idea of Chapek’s that Iger reportedly hadn’t been fond of in the past. Chapek also pitched a streaming-only version of ESPN that Iger is now pushing forward, with reports suggesting that Disney is looking for partners to take a minority stake in the network.
That’s not the only move Iger has made that contradicts his previous stances. While Iger reportedly wanted Disney Plus to be the cheapest streaming service on offer, he’s following in Chapek’s footsteps by cranking up the price yet again. Whether Iger wants to admit it, he may now see reason in some of the business decisions made by Chapek.
In July, Iger extended his contract with Disney through 2026, and according to CNBC, he really plans on retiring this time. But the question of who Iger will pick as his successor — and whether he’ll be able to keep his hands out of Disney after their takeover — remains.