Ted Sarandos, Bob Iger Among Executives on California Gov.’s Task Force Seeking $1 Trillion in Congressional Virus Relief for Local Governments

Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos and Disney executive chairman Bob Iger have joined a group of more than 90 California business leaders calling on Congress to approve $1 trillion in coronavirus fiscal relief for all states and local governments.

Sarandos and Iger are members of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business & Jobs Recovery organized to deal with the economic, environmental and social fallout from the pandemic.

In a May 15 letter to House and Senate leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the task force said COVID-19 has “fundamentally” changed how business and organizations operate and are managed.

“The worst of the economic impact is likely still to come,” read the letter.

The group said successful re-opening of state and local economies relies on building confidence among consumers that it is safe to shop and greater certainty for workers that the services they rely on to do their jobs will remain in place.

“Without that, we will be a re-opened economy in name only,” they wrote.

The group said it stands with business leaders throughout the nation, from both sides of the aisle, who said the funds would protect core government services like public health, public safety, public education and helping people get back to work.

“This funding will help our states and cities — and America’s economy — come out of this crisis stronger and more resilient,” they wrote.

The letter came on the day the Democrat-controlled House approved a $3 trillion relief bill, which included $1 trillion in states aid. The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to pass the bill.

Disney Names Rebecca Campbell Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International

With the departure of Kevin Mayer to TikTok, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has named longtime colleague Rebecca Campbell chairman of the media giant’s Direct-to-Consumer & International business unit. Separately, Josh D’Amaro has been named chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

In her new role, Campbell will help launch flagship subscription streaming platform Disney+ in Japan, with further bows planned in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Josh D’Amaro

“Our company is very fortunate to have a deep bench of talent and we’re extremely pleased to welcome these two exceptionally qualified Disney veterans to our senior management team,” Chapek said in a statement. “Both Josh and Rebecca have more than two decades of leadership experience with the company, a keen understanding of our brands and businesses, and a shared passion and vision for delivering extraordinary entertainment and one-of-a-kind experiences.”

A 23-year Disney executive, Campbell since 2017 has worked closely with Chapek as president of Disney Resort, including Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Before that, Campbell led the Magical Kingdom’s European, Middle East and Africa operations.

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Since launching last November, Disney+ has generated more than 54 million subscriptions.

D’Amaro, who most recently served as president of Walt Disney World Resort, succeeds Chapek as chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. In his new role, D’Amaro will attempt to jumpstart Disney’s shuttered travel and leisure businesses, which include six theme park-resort destinations in the United States, Europe and Asia; a cruise line; a vacation ownership program; and a guided family adventure business.

Walt Disney World Orlando is re-opening retail center Disney Springs on May 21 — 10 days after the re-opening of Shanghai Disneyland and Disneytown in China.

Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer Jumps to China’s TikTok as CEO

In a surprise move, Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer & International unit, is leaving to become COO of the corporate parent of Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, effective June 1.

Mayer, who has spent 25 years at Disney, will report directly to Yiming Zhang, founder/CEO of ByteDance. He will be charged with driving the global development at ByteDance, as well as overseeing corporate functions, including corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, moderation, and legal.

In his role as COO, Mayer will lead music, gaming, Helo, emerging businesses, and will also serve as CEO of TikTok, leading the rapidly growing platform as it continues to build its global community of creators, users, and brands.

“Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” Zhang said in a statement.

As chairman of Disney’s revamped home entertainment unit, consumer products and international business, Mayer oversaw rollout of Disney+, the company’s flagship subscription streaming video service. Additionally, Mayer led the company’s other direct-to-consumer businesses, including Hulu, ESPN+, and India’s Hotstar, as well as overseeing Disney’s international operations, global ad sales, and global content sales.

“Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching [ByteDance] build something incredibly rare in TikTok — a creative, positive online global community,” Mayer said.

The executive said he is grateful to Bob Iger for his visionary leadership and mentorship over many years, and Bob Chapek, whom Mayer said he greatly admires.

Alex Zhu, the current president of TikTok, will transition to ByteDance VP of product and strategy, where he will focus on his primary passion overseeing strategy and product design.

Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue to lead the business as CEO and Chairman of ByteDance China, respectively, reporting to Yiming Zhang, as ByteDance’s global CEO. They manage a range of products, including Douyin, Toutiao, and Xigua, in addition to their duties leading the business and operational teams in China.

In the management restructuring, TikTok said its national and regional management leaders would remain in their roles with their current responsibilities, reporting to Mayer.

Walt Disney Studios Q2 Biz Deflects Pandemic; Worse Still to Come

With the extent of the coronavirus not impacting its studio operations until March, Walt Disney Studios May 5 revealed it managed to avoid a fiscal catastrophe in the second quarter (ended March 28).

Studio revenue for the quarter increased 18% to $2.5 billion, and segment operating income decreased 8% from the previous-year period to $466 million. The decrease in operating income was due to lower results at legacy operations, partially offset by the consolidation of the 20th Century Fox businesses that Disney took over a year ago. The decrease at legacy operations was due to higher film impairments and decreases in theatrical distribution and stage-play results, partially offset by an increase from TV/SVOD distribution.

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Theatrical distribution in the quarter was still negatively impacted by COVID-19 as theaters closed domestically beginning in mid-March and internationally at various times beginning late January.

Theatrical distribution results in the quarter included an increase in bad debt expense and also reflected an adverse impact from COVID-19 on the performance of Onward, which was released domestically on March 6. Other significant titles in the current quarter included Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker compared to Captain Marvel, Mary Poppins Returns and Dumbo in the prior-year quarter.

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Stage-play results in the quarter were negatively impacted as live entertainment theaters also were closed. Growth in TV/SVOD distribution results was due to sales of content to Disney+ driven by The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Frozen II and Aladdin. This was partially offset by a decrease in sales to third parties in the pay and free television windows. The benefit from the Fox businesses reflected income from TV/SVOD distribution, partially offset by a loss from theatrical distribution and general and administrative costs. Fox theatrical releases in the current quarter included The Call of the Wild and Downhill.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an appreciable financial impact on a number of our businesses, we are confident in our ability to withstand this disruption and emerge from it in a strong position,” CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “Disney has repeatedly shown that it is exceptionally resilient, bolstered by the quality of our storytelling and the strong affinity consumers have for our brands, which is evident in the extraordinary response to Disney+ since its launch last November.”

This is Disney’s first earnings report with former home entertainment chief Chapek as CEO. Former CEO Bob Iger in February said he would turn the reins of the company over to Chapek, who previously had run the parks division, and transition to executive chairman.

Just weeks after Chapek officially took over, the novel coronavirus led to a succession of stay-at-home orders throughout the country, and Iger stepped back in work with Chapek on day-to-day operations, according to a New York Times report.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Disney particularly hard. Movie theaters have shuttered, productions have shut down, live sporting events have been canceled and theme parks are closed indefinitely. Theme parks accounted for 37% of Disney’s $69.6 billion total revenue in 2019.

Disney said it expects the pandemic to negatively impact the company by $1.4 billion in the current third quarter, which ends June 30.

To cut costs, Disney has furloughed thousands of workers, mostly across theme parks and resorts; taken out a $5 billion line of credit; and slashed executive pay, including a 50% pay cut for Chapek. Iger is forgoing his salary, according CNBC.

Bob Chapek Named to Disney Board

New Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been officially named to The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors, according to a regulatory filing. Chapek assumed the chief executive position in February after 15-year chief executive Bob Iger decided to step away from day-to-day operations.

“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,” Iger and Susan Arnold, independent lead director, said in a joint statement.

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Iger, who assumed a newly created position of executive chairman of the board, earlier this week said he is returning to daily duties in an effort to assist Chapek as the latter confronts disastrous conditions across most Disney business units as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to becoming CEO, Chapek served as chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products. During his tenure at Parks, Chapek oversaw the opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort, and creation of the new “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. From 2011 to 2015, Chapek was president of the former Disney consumer products segment, where he drove a technology-led transformation of the business. He also served as president of distribution for The Walt Disney Studios, and was president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, where he spearheaded the successful “vault strategy” for the company’s legacy movies.

Disney reports second-quarter (ended March 31) fiscal results on May 5.

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Bob Iger Upping Corporate Presence as Pandemic Ravages Disney

With Disney reportedly losing $30 million daily as the coronavirus effectively shutters most of its business units, former CEO Bob Iger is stepping in to assist new CEO Bob Chapek to help navigate the pandemic.

“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!,” Iger wrote in an email to The New York Times, which ran an April 12 story about the executive chairman’s increased public presence.

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Iger abruptly stepped down from the CEO position on Feb. 25 just as the pandemic was was expanding its global presence and impacting economies worldwide. Chapek, former head of home entertainment, consumer products and amusement parks, was named the new chief executive — a position he said he was more than ready to handle.

But to say Chapek’s plate is full would be a major understatement, and publicly at least the Disney veteran has expressed willingness to accept any advice from his former boss.

“I do understand the gravity of trying to fill this gentleman’s shoes, but I’m ready for it and look forward to some great years ahead,” Chapek said at Disney’s annual shareholders meeting in March in Raleigh, N.C.

Indeed, Chapek jumped into the deep end at that shareholders meeting fielding questions about ABC News’ perceived bias against President Trump and not giving in to LGBTQ rights at its amusement parks.

“At Disney, we strongly believe that we should reflect in our creative content the diversity that we find in our fan base and with our audience,” Chapek responded.

But with Disney furloughing 43,000 Walt Disney World employees in Florida on April 19, on top of the 30,000 furloughed staffers in California, Chapek finds himself fighting a pandemic on multiple fronts.

Iger, who is under contract through 2021 in a four-year compensation package worth $423 million, assumed a newly created executive chairman position overseeing Disney’s creative measures. So it wasn’t surprising he told the media last week about plans to further postpone some theatrical releases while expediting others to retail channels, including releasing Artemis Fowl exclusively to Disney+.

Iger floated the idea of testing consumers’ temperatures whenever Disney re-opens its amusement parks, adding separately that the pandemic underscores the need to stop holding expensive ad-upfront presentations and producing TV series pilots that never air.

One area Iger has no interest in weighing in on is staffing. During his tenure as CEO, Iger was dogged by a long-running dispute with striking Disneyland hotel workers and allegations Disney underpays its theme park employees.

“The people who walk around all day in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes, the workers who prepare and deliver the food, the men and women who collect tickets and manage the rides, make wages so low that they are barely surviving,” Bernie Sanders, the former Democrat presidential nominee and Vermont Senator, wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian in 2018.

Iger, who during the 2016 presidential campaign criticized Sanders as being clueless about matters of running businesses and creating jobs, in his New York Times email was clear to underscore whose job it would be regarding company staffing.

“Any decision about staff reductions will be made by my successor and not me,” he wrote in the email.

Disney shares were down more than 2% in early market trading April 13.

Disney Executives Forgo Salary, Perks During Pandemic

While some media companies have set aside tens of millions of dollars for displaced workers and production personnel, The Walt Disney Co. is cutting salaries and perks to senior executives as its business units get hammered from all directions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With nearly all business segments either idled or severely curtailed due to shutdowns and consumer quarantines in major markets, Disney will subject its senior executives to significant payroll cuts and related perks, effective April 5.

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According to a regulatory filing, former CEO Bob Iger, who earlier this year transitioned to executive chairman, will forgo his entire $3 million salary, in addition to the use of a company car. Disney will still pay Iger his health care benefits.

Iger’s successor, Bob Chapek, will have his $2.5 million salary cut in half. In addition, general counsel Alan Braverman, CFO Christine McCarthy, human resources chief Jayne Parker, and head of corporate communications Zenia Mucha will see 30% cuts to their base salaries.

Disney said that except for the amount of compensation for paid time off, the salary reductions are not intended to reduce any company employee benefit provided to executives that is determined by reference to the base salary payable, except as may be required at law.

Chapek is still eligible for a bonus of “not less than 300% of the annual base salary,” according to a SEC filing. He is also in line for “a long-term incentive award having a target value of not less than $15 million” for each fiscal year of the agreement through Feb. 28, 2023.

The cuts come as Wall Street downgrades Disney’s fiscal estimates going forward. Credit Suisse analyst Doug Mitchelson, in a note, said his two-week old forecasts for Disney are moot.

“There remains virtually no visibility as to when sports and Hollywood content production will resume and re-openings for theme parks and theaters will take place — we assume beginning of June,” Mitchelson wrote. “As for the media business, the depth of ad declines is also uncertain.”

It should be noted that base salaries are what constitutes the majority of Disney’s payroll taxes and related employee costs. The bulk of senior executive compensation revolves around stock options, which are based on, and compensated by, the stock market.

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Indeed, Iger received total compensation in excess of $66 million in 2018 and $47.5 million in 2019 — the bulk of it stock options and bonuses, including a combined $18.5 million if he remained employed with the company past July 2, 2019, and closing of the Fox studio acquisition.

The Disney board  later rescinded the Fox bonus (after fiscal contributions plummeted) and Iger voluntarily forfeited the employment deadline perk.

Bob Iger: Disney+ Streaming Service Nearing 30 Million Subs

Retired Disney CEO Bob Iger March 11 told attendees at the media giant’s annual shareholder meeting in Raleigh, N.C., that the company would successfully withstand challenges from the global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We’re all sobered by the concern we feel for everyone affected by this global crisis,” Iger said. “What we’ve demonstrated repeatedly is that we are incredibly resilient.”

The executive chairman, who introduced successor Bob Chapek to shareholders, said Disney’s future remains bright.

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“What we create at the Wall Disney Co. has never been more necessary or more important,” Iger said.

Indeed, his comments come as Disney said Tokyo Disneyland would remain shuttered until April. Shanghai Disney remains closed expect for select retail merchants. Disneyland Paris remains open.

Separately, Iger said the branded subscription streaming service, Disney+, had reached nearly 30 million subscribers in just three months of operation.

“The decision to pivot to a direct-to-c0nsumerstrategy was a critical one and it is our top priority,” Iger said. Disney+ will launch in Europe on March 24.

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Bob Chapek: Direct-to-Consumer is ‘My Sweet Spot’

New Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who was abruptly named to the position Feb. 25, with former CEO Bob Iger transitioning to the executive chairman role, says he’s well-equipped to run the global media brand.

Speaking with Julia Boorstin on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” Chapek said he plans to take the “strategic pillars” Iger established over the past 15 years and further implement them into the direct-to-consumer market.

At the same time, Chapek, who most recently headed Disney’s Parks & Recreation unit, including currently shuttered (due to the COVID-19 virus) amusement parks Disney Shanghai and Disney Hong Kong, said he would be looking “around the corner” for any “disruption” that might be going on in the marketplace that would “necessitate a fresh look.”

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“But right now, the course that Bob has laid is one that we fully intend to follow and I think will pay dividends for our shareholders for years to come,” Chapek said.

The longtime executive said ongoing concerns about COVID-19 underscore a “function of our consumer demand” for the Disney product. Chapek said Disney would weather the storm and emerge from the challenge as it has other setbacks.

“[The] affinity for the brand and our storytelling will way outlast any short-term blip that we have from Coronavirus,” he said.

When asked about ongoing cord-cutting among pay-TV subscribers and the growth of over-the-top video distribution, Chapek said his background in home entertainment and consumer products would serve well dealing directly with consumers.

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“It’s not ironic that our strategy for the media business now is a direct-to-consumer business, where we have the one-on-one relationship with the customer without having a lot of middlemen in between,” he said. “That’s my sweet spot, and I think that’s something I can leverage now throughout all my experiences, not even Disney but even before Disney, in terms of figuring out how we take the data, the information, the technology and, once again, our storytelling right direct to the consumer so that we can take the great equities that we have and continue to build those for our shareholders.”

Bob Chapek Named Disney CEO

Former home entertainment executive Bob Chapek has been named CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Chapek most recently served as chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Former CEO Robert A. Iger assumes the role of executive chairman and will direct the company’s creative endeavors, while leading the board “and providing the full benefit of his experience, leadership and guidance to ensure a smooth and successful transition through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021,” according to a Disney press release.

(L-R): Bob Iger and Bob Chapek at the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. (Photo by Business Wire)

In Chapek’s new role as CEO, he will directly oversee all the company’s business segments and corporate functions and will report to executive chairman Iger and the board of directors. He will be appointed to the board at a later date. A new head of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will be named at a future time.

“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of 21st Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the company’s creative endeavors.”

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“I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world, and to lead our exceptionally talented and dedicated cast members and employees,” Chapek said in a statement. “Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team. I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”

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Chapek served as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products since the segment’s creation in 2018, and prior to that was chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts since 2015.

Bob Chapek (right) with fellow home entertainment division presidents Mike Dunn (20th Century Fox), David Bishop (Sony Pictures) and Steve Beeks (Lionsgate) at the 2007 CES, showcasing Blu-ray Disc.

From 2011 to 2015, Chapek was President of the former Disney Consumer Products segment. Prior to that, he served as president of distribution for The Walt Disney Studios and was responsible for overseeing the studios’ overall content distribution strategy across multiple platforms including theatrical exhibition, home entertainment, pay TV, digital entertainment and new media.

He also served as president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, where he spearheaded the successful “vault strategy” for the company’s iconic animated classics. They would be released on home video for a limited time before being returned to the “vault,” a practice that led to spikes in demand — and a series of home video sales records.

Chapek also played a key role in transitioning home entertainment from DVD to Blu-ray Disc, characterizing the latter as an “evolutionary” format — a prediction that has come true, as Blu-ray Disc is now the conduit for the latest technological advance in home viewing, 4K Ultra HD.

Speaking on an investor call shortly after the transition announcement, Iger said that even though he has nearly two years left on his contract, the change was being made now because he felt he needed to start focusing on the company’s creative strategy in the wake of the acquisition of the 20th Century Fox studio assets and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service.

“With the asset base in place and with our strategy essentially deployed, I decided I should be spending as much time as possible on the creative side of our business,” Iger said. “That becomes the biggest priority. Getting everything right creatively would be my number one goal. The best way to do that was to turn over day to day management of the company to Bob [Chapek] and free me up to focus on the creative side.”