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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Disney Brings Back Execs As It Weighs ESPN Equity Sale, Future Leadership

  • Iger brings in former Disney executives Mayer, Staggs to consult on TV assets
  • Engagement happening as ESPN parent wrestles with serious questions
Bob Iger of Disney
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Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger is turning to two former colleagues to help solve one of the ESPN parent’s thorniest issues — prompting questions about the company’s future leadership.

Just days after indicating he would be open to outside equity partners for ESPN, Iger has called in former Disney senior executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs to consult with him, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and others shaping the future of Disney’s linear TV business.

Mayer previously led Disney’s direct-to-consumer operations and played a key role in the $3.83 billion, four-step purchase of MLB’s BAMTech, the technological backbone of ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu. Staggs spent more than a quarter-century at Disney, mostly as CFO. 

Both separately left Disney after failing to secure the CEO post held by Bob Chapek for nearly three years before Iger’s November 2022 return.

Iger said he could sell parts of Disney TV networks like ESPN and ABC, which is understandable. ESPN has lost nearly 28 million linear subscribers since 2011, and cord-cutting has slashed the number of traditional pay-TV households from 102.1 million in 2014 to 63.2 million in 2023.

The move also revives speculation as to whether the pair of former Disney confidantes have reentered the mix to be Iger’s ultimate successor.

A newly agreed two-year extension will keep Iger in place through 2026, when he’ll be 75 — but the deal specifically calls for a clear CEO succession plan. Disney next reports quarterly earnings on Aug. 9, which could offer further clues on the company’s linear TV direction.

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