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New Disney CEO Bob Chapek elected to the board

Bob Chapek, Disney’s new CEO.
(Asscociated Press)
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New Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Chapek has been elected to the company’s board of directors, Disney said Wednesday.

The appointment comes seven weeks after Disney named Chapek CEO, replacing Bob Iger, who took on the role of executive chairman after 15 years in the top job.

Chapek’s election to the board was expected.

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Disney had begun CEO succession planning in November and in February said it would name Chapek to the board, but it did not disclose the timing for such move. At the time he was named to the top job, Disney had already printed its proxy in advance of its annual shareholders meeting.

Still, the announcement takes on greater significance given the damaging effects of the coronavirus crisis on Disney’s businesses, including its lucrative parks and movie studio.

In a statement, Iger and independent lead board director Susan Arnold praised Chapek’s leadership amid the crisis.

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“Bob Chapek has demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges that were unimaginable when he became CEO just seven weeks ago, and we’ve watched him navigate this very complex situation with decisiveness and compassion,” the executives said.

The move also comes just days after a column in the New York Times suggested that Iger was retaking firmer control of the company as Disney faces perilous challenges because of shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus. The piece also downplayed the leadership of Chapek, who was previously head of the company’s parks and products division.

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The coronavirus outbreak has wreaked untold havoc on the entertainment industry, and on Disney in particular because of its reliance on live, in-person experiences such as resorts and movie theaters, which are closed indefinitely.

The company has shut down parks, cruise lines, and movie and TV productions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of employees have been furloughed, including in the firm’s parks and studio divisions. The company has raised billions of dollars in debt to weather the situation.

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