© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A screen shows the logo and a ticker symbol for The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Former Walt Disney (NYSE:) Co Chief Executive Bob Iger is returning to the media company as CEO less than a year after he retired, a surprise appointment that comes as the entertainment company struggles to turn its streaming TV services into a profitable business.
Iger, who retired last year after 15 years as chief executive, has agreed to serve as CEO for two more years, Disney said in a statement late on Sunday. He will replace Bob Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in February 2020.
While Chapek steered Disney through the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney disappointed investors this month with an earnings report that showed continued losses at its streaming media unit that includes Disney+.
“The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period,” Susan Arnold, chair of Disney’s board, said in the statement.
In June, Disney’s board voted unanimously to extend Chapek’s contract for three years.
Through Chapek’s short tenure, Disney became engulfed in an internal culture war after being accused of remaining silent on Florida legislation that would limit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Iger exited Disney on a high note as the company led the entertainment industry’s battle against Netflix (NASDAQ:) in the streaming wars. The economic slowdown and high interest rates have hurt Disney+ as the company prepares for deep cost cuts.
“I am an optimist, and if I learned one thing from my years at Disney, it is that even in the face of uncertainty—perhaps especially in the face of uncertainty—our employees and Cast Members achieve the impossible,” Iger said in a memo to employees seen by Reuters.
The leadership change caught employees by surprise, one company source said.