Bob Iger: A Cinematic Tour-De-Force or Capitalist Vulture?

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Sam Lawrence takes a look at how Disney CEO Bob Iger took Disney to the top of the world and what his resignation means, for both the company and Hollywood, moving forward.


Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced that he will be immediately stepping down from his position as head of the company after 15 years. Throughout his tenure, Iger oversaw increasing success at the helm of the global media conglomerate, taking Disney to new heights and becoming one of the most powerful men Hollywood has ever seen in the process.

Iger had a laser-focussed plan for the company when he took over in 2005. Disney had hit a rough patch around the time of Iger’s appointment and he only had one thing on his mind – expand the empire and increase profits by any means necessary. Wasting no time, in 2006 he led Disney’s purchase of animated studio Pixar, the two had previously collaborated on beloved films such as Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. It was a move that would solidify the hugely successful relationship.

He continued to expand Disney’s already impressive portfolio by acquiring Marvel Entertainment in 2009 – (including The Avengers franchise which would go on to become a global phenomenon) – before purchasing Star Wars production company Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney now had the two highest-grossing film franchises of all time under their belt. Other ventures included a new theme park in Shanghai, purchases of Hulu and 21st Century Fox and most recently the launch of streaming service Disney+.  

During his fifteen year stint as CEO, Iger increased Disney’s annual revenue from $31 billion to just shy of $70 billion. It’s an astonishing achievement but his means of getting there, the means I have just laid out, do not sit well with everyone. On the one hand, Iger is a genius, a tour de force of the film industry who transformed Disney into the fantastic, world-dominating company it is today. 

On the other, Iger represents everything wrong with modern Hollywood. Many see Hollywood today as a place where the billion-dollar, multi-national, mass-media production giant rules and independent cinema is being suffocated as a result. A place where the never-ending production line of cash-grab sequels and remakes smother the fresh, new, interesting ideas. A capitalist cesspit with one thing on its mind – profit. Iger’s business strategy as head of Disney, it could be argued, has encouraged this culture of monopolisation and Hollywood is worse off as a result.

“On the other, Iger represents everything wrong with modern Hollywood. Many see Hollywood today as a place where the billion-dollar, multi-national, mass-media production giant rules and independent cinema is being suffocated as a result.”

Nevertheless, Iger deserves praise for his influence at Disney and his departure is going to be felt. But what will his resignation mean for the company going forward? And what impact will it have on the film industry? Iger’s replacement has already been announced as former chairman of parks, experiences and products Bob Chapek, so it’s not foolish to assume that a greater margin of the company’s profits will be allotted to improving their amusement parks. In terms of the film side of the business, it’s yet to be seen if he’ll follow Iger’s lead with heavy investment in assets from the biggest names in film.  

As for the film industry overall. A brand the size of Disney making a huge change such as this is bound to have reverberations. Unlike Iger when he took over back in 2005, Chapek enters the role with very little experience when it comes to Hollywood. As a result, we may see Disney slow down its efforts to buy everything it can get its hands on. Additionally, with a long term plan supposedly in place to focus on and maintain the companies streaming properties, we may see a string of big-budget movies heading straight to exclusive platforms.

Whatever you think of the direction Bob Iger took Disney, there is little doubt that he has left a formidable legacy. One that has changed the shape of modern cinema as we know it. So, with the keys to the Magic Kingdom firmly in his grasp, one thing is for sure, Bob Chapek has a tough act to follow.      

Credit: NBC News