Media giant Walt Disney Co. DIS made a rather shocking move in November when it announced it had a new CEO to replace Bob Chapek. While Disney has a popular name leading the company now, here’s a look at who could be next in line.
What Happened: In November, Disney announced Bob Iger was returning to Disney as the CEO. Iger previously spent 15 years as the CEO of the company.
Investors welcomed the return of Iger, the man who led Disney’s growth from 2005 to 2020 and was behind many of the company’s largest acquisitions ever, including Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar.
One of the staples of the Disney portfolio is ESPN, a leading sports network and brand. ESPN has the rights to many leading sports leagues to air live contests, including the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The NBA rights could be a big item for Disney investors and other media companies to watch in the coming years. The rights are set to expire in a couple of years and Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery inc WBD, who have the current rights, will likely get the first crack at renewing.
Other interested parties in the NBA rights include Comcast Corporation CMCSA, Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN and Apple Inc AAPL.
Disney could be faced with a decision of paying up for the rights and how important the NBA is to the future of ESPN.
Investors, activists and analysts also called on Disney to spin off its ESPN unit, something both Chapek and Iger hesitated to do. Disney did not announce it was restructuring the company into three divisions: Disney Entertainment, ESPN, and Parks, Experiences and Products.
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Next CEO: While the NBA rights might be important to the future of ESPN’s growth, the league could also be important in deciding the next CEO of the media company.
New reports are emerging that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a frontrunner to be named the next CEO of Disney. Silver was first reported as a leading candidate by Fox Business host Charles Gasparino.
Silver’s contract with the NBA goes through the end of 2024. When Iger signed on with Disney in November 2022, it was announced as a two-year term, which could align the timing on such a move.
The report said Silver is considered for the CEO role and could not be on the board of directors due to a potential conflict with the NBA rights deal.
Silver has been the NBA Commissioner since February 2014. While leading the NBA, Silver has helped push the growth of the sport internationally, continuing on the success of his predecessor David Stern. Silver helped the league create NBA China, NBA Africa and pushed for the growth of the WNBA, NBA G League and NBA 2K League.
The NBA Commissioner won numerous awards for his work leading the basketball league, including SportsBusiness Journal’s Executive of the Decade, TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and Sports Illustrated’s Executive of the Year.
Others named to the shortlist for the next Disney CEO from Gasparino include Disney Entertainment’s Dana Walden and former Disney executive Kevin Mayer. While at Disney, Mayer oversaw the direct-to-consumer unit, helping to launch Disney+. Mayer also was previously a chief strategy officer at Disney.
Mayer was considered a potential Disney CEO before leaving the company to become the CEO of TikTok.
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