Bob Iger to Remain Disney Chief through 2018

Bob Iger has extended his contract to remain chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co. through June 30, 2018.

One of his first moves will be to appoint a chief operating officer in 2015, with the individual most likely groomed to replace Iger when he does retire, sources told Variety.

Disney’s Board of Directors announced the extension of Iger’s contract Thursday.

Bob Iger is the architect of Disney’s current success, with a proven history of delivering record financial results for the company quarter after quarter and year after year,” said Orin C. Smith, independent lead director of the Disney board. “Under his tenure, Disney has reached unprecedented creative and financial heights, driving the stock price to record levels and creating extraordinary value for shareholders. He has transformed Disney’s culture and empowered its businesses to effectively capitalize on evolving markets and new technologies, making Disney a company that doesn’t merely embrace change, but leads it.”

Iger will maintain the same annual compensation terms as his existing contract (he earned $34.3 million in Disney’s fiscal 2013 year). He also will have the opportunity to earn a performance-based retention bonus if certain financial performance goals are met over a five-year period ending with fiscal year 2018.

Iger last year extended his tenure as the head of Disney by 15 months, taking him through June 2016. In 2011, Iger set a plan to step down as CEO in April 2015 but the demands of the company’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and theme park expansion plans in China spurred him to extend his tenure.

While Disney has yet to anoint a clear successor to Iger as CEO, chief financial officer Jay Rasulo and Disney theme parks head Tom Staggs are both in contention for the top job — and the COO role.

Iger has been CEO of Disney since he succeeded Michael Eisner in September 2005. He is widely considered one of the industry’s most successful CEOs, having transformed Disney’s operations with key acquisition and expansion initiatives during the past decade.

“By setting a clear business strategy based on producing high-quality branded content, technological innovation and international expansion— and then over-delivering against that strategy — Mr. Iger has repeatedly proven himself to be a highly effective leader able to create long-term shareholder value,” Smith said. “Since he became CEO in 2005, total shareholder return has increased to 311%, compared to just 92% for the S&P 500, and Disney’s market capitalization has risen to $150 billion from $48.4 billion.”

The Mouse House has put much of its resources around branded films — including Marvel’s superhero movies, toons from Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and fantasy fare, while also reviving the “Star Wars” franchise on the big screen.

Iger’s deals to buy Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm and revive Disney animation with the blockbuster “Frozen,” while also growing the company’s theme park biz around the world, positioned Disney for continued long-term growth, Smith said.

“Given Mr. Iger’s outstanding record to date, it is obvious that shareholders and the company will be best served by his continued leadership, which is why the Board of Directors has asked him to extend his contract for two years, to June 30, 2018,” he said.

The studio’s 2015 and 2016 film slate includes: “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Star Wars: Episode VII,” “The Jungle Book,” “Cinderella,” Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” “The Good Dinosaur” and “Inside Out,” “Ant-Man,” “Captain America 3,” “Big Hero 6,” “Alice in Wonderland 2” and “Tomorrowland.”

It scored this year with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which has become the summer and year’s top-grossing film in the U.S. with more than $313 million.

 

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