'It Is What Drives The Company': Returning Disney CEO Bob Iger Outlines New Creativity-Focused Vision

The surprise return of the CEO was marked by a meeting with employees Monday, where he discussed streaming profitability, working from home and the company's ongoing hiring freeze.

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By Gabrielle Bienasz

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Bob Iger in 2020.

Disney owns the rights to Return of the Jedi — but Monday, it was the return of Bob Iger.

The CEO, who mounted a surprise comeback to the top job at the media and entertainment conglomerate last week, hosted his first employee town hall on Monday, according to news reports of the meeting.

"I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO," he said in a statement upon taking the job.

In the meeting Monday, the veteran CEO discussed his priorities at the company, namely creativity and cost efficiency, as well as the company's ongoing hiring freeze.

Related: Bob Iger Returns as Disney CEO and Bob Chapek Steps Down, Effective Immediately

Iger was Disney's CEO from 2005 to 2020 and served as executive chairman of the board through 2021. He reigned over the company during a highly successful period, particularly creatively, including the purchase of Marvel Studios and Pixar. Over the past year, he said multiple times he would not return to Disney.

His predecessor, Bob Chapek, faced difficulties at Disney, namely his response to Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, a public fight with Scarlett Johansson, a slump in the company's stock — it's down nearly 40% from the beginning of the year — and continued heavy lifting to get Disney+ to profitability. Of late, fans have also repeatedly expressed frustration at cost hikes at various Disney institutions.

Related: 'I Can Go to Europe for Cheaper': A Trip to Disney Costs More Than Ever Before

Chapek earlier this month announced plans to reduce costs, including cutting business travel and curtailing hiring.

In Monday's meeting, Iger said that the company will stick with the hiring freeze implemented by Chapek. "It felt like it was a wise thing to do in terms of the challenges, and at the moment, I don't have any plans to change it," he said, per CNBC.

And although Iger feels that creative work is best done in person, he does not have plans to require Disney employees to return to the office, the outlet added.

The big focus, reportedly, is indeed on creativity. "A number of you who worked with me know I'm obsessed with that… But I'm obsessed with that for a reason. It is what drives the company," he said, per CNN. He added the focus will be on quality, not quantity.

Iger will also cut costs through corporate restructuring. He has already announced that Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney's media and entertainment distribution department, will leave the company.

More cost cuts could be on the way, particularly for Disney+ (including Hulu and ESPN+), which lost $1.5 billion in Q4, sending the company's stock sinking.

Disney has said from the beginning that its streaming service won't be profitable until 2024, but shareholders have increased their pressure on the company as economic conditions worsen.

Disney's streamers need to focus less on "chasing subs with aggressive marketing and aggressive spend on content," Iger said, per CNN.

Instead, Disney+ needs to focus on chasing profitability, which could mean the company will take a "very, very hard look" at the division's spending, Iger said, per CNN.

Some have speculated that budget cuts could affect plans to update or create new attractions at Disney's various theme parks.

Gabrielle Bienasz

Entrepreneur Staff

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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