Could Bob Iger return as CEO of Disney?

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney

Some fantastic things have happened over at the Walt Disney Company because of CEO Bob Iger. He oversaw the purchase of animation juggernaut Pixar, comic book and superhero company Marvel, and Lucasfilm, home of Star Wars.

Those three acquisitions cost a total of $15 billion, but they made Disney an entertainment behemoth that not many companies can even come close to touching.

Iger, 70, is well-liked by the public, and it came as a surprise when the company announced he was stepping down. In Feb. of last year, Disney announced that Bob Chapek would be the new CEO and Iger would stay on as executive chairman to aid in the transition, and then he’d step down entirely at the end of this year.

Iger recently shared his reasoning for leaving the company.

“Over time, I started listening less and maybe with a little less tolerance of other people’s opinions, maybe because of getting a little bit more overconfident in my own, which is sometimes what happens when you get built up,” he told CNBC’s David Faber in an interview.

He said he realized that “times change” and said no to things too quickly.

“I became a little bit more dismissive of other people’s opinions than I should have been,” Iger said. “That was an early sign that it was time. It wasn’t the reason I left, but it was a contributing factor.”

He’s also aware that his leaving means that the company is going to operate differently than it did before.

“Look, the world is changing dramatically, and it’s important for the CEO of a company to address all of those changes rapidly,” Iger said. “Bob [Chapek] is going to address them probably differently, perhaps than I may have. But that’s neither good nor bad. I think change, I think, generally speaking, change is good. Change isn’t necessarily bad.”

Even though Iger is still in the Disney offices, there are already questions about whether his exit will be permanent or not because there’s already some backlash over Chapek’s ability to do the job.

Chapek was forced to weather the storm during the pandemic and has made some tough decisions regarding budget cuts and layoffs. Thousands of Disney cast members in parks were laid off due to the pandemic, and a new phone app called the Disney Genie and a new fastpass system called Lightning Lane.

One petition to fire Chapek has more than 85,000 signatures. Another issue is that Disney shares are down almost 20%, and Iger owns many shares. All of this means that rumors of Iger’s return are running rampant.

So will he come back? The chances are not zero, and one exec told CNBC that there are “internal wagers at Disney about Iger returning” to the company. Time will tell.