By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Thomas O. Staggs, Disney’s number 2 executive and chief operating officer behind CEO Bob Iger, has tendered his resignation. Staggs was the leading candidate to succeed Iger when the Disney chief retires in 2018. Iger, who turns 67 this year, has two years left on his contract, and has already signalled his intent not to renew it. But with Staggs deciding to move on, the question is … Who’s going to lead the Mouse House in the future?
“Tom has been a great friend and trusted colleague for more than 20 years. He’s made important contributions to this company, earning wide respect across the organization for his achievements and personal integrity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, immensely grateful for the privilege of working with him and confident that he will be enormously successful in whatever opportunity he chooses.” – Statement by Disney CEO Bob Iger
Staggs won the number 2 position last year and had only been on the job a few months, when according to the L.A. Times, the Disney board of directors were wondering if he was the man for the CEO job. His financial and theme park bonafides were second to none, but due to a lack of creative experience the media juggernaut would rely on, the board seems to have had second thoughts that Skaggs could keep the creative momentum going.
Iger, by contrast, had run ABC before succeeding Michael Eisner, and that experience has served him well, causing Disney to explode with acquistions that have included the Muppets, Pixar, Marvel, and of course, Lucasfilm.
“Disney truly stands alone, not only because of the company’s phenomenal creativity, but also because of the thousands of remarkable people who make it such an extraordinary place. It’s been a privilege to work with them and be inspired by their creativity and commitment. It’s also been a great experience to work with Bob during this dynamic era of unprecedented growth and transformation. I remain grateful for that opportunity, and I’m confident that Disney’s future will be just as exciting as its legendary past.” – Thomas O. Skaggs
Confidence in Staggs also received a black eye when he tapped theme park marketing executive Leslie Ferraro to take over the bread and butter division of Disney merchandising, and then left a few months after she got the gig. With these issues outstanding, and without the support of the board, it was a fate accomplis that Staggs would end up the odd man out effective May 6th, although he will remain with the company as Iger’s “special advisor.”
So that leaves a gaping sudden gaping hole at the top of the Disney pyramid, one that needs to be filled relatively quickly with less than two years left in Iger’s tenure. It’s not going to be easy to find the right executive for the job, as Disney’s reach goes from TV broadcasting (ABC, ESPN, Disney XD and Freeform [formerly ABC Family]) to movies. Their high profile tentpoles include Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, a major Star Wars release every year for the foreseeable future, and their animation unit which is lead by Pixar and John Lasseter.
Then there are the Theme Parks, which has their much publicized Star Wars Land expansion going on at Disneyland and Disney World, plus the other parks worldwide, like Shanghai Disney and Disney Paris. Plus their travel-based section, which includes cruise lines and vacation destinations. It takes quite a visionary to keep all those major league properties firing on all cylinders.
Disney tends to promote from within, so there’s speculation that the Iger and the Board will look to several other high ranking execs who lost out when Staggs beat them out for the number 2 promotion.
But there’s also some heavy outside names, including NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, who used to run the Disney Store and was also president and CEO of Euro Disney and ABC Broadcasting in the late 1980’s. There’s also Facebook COO and Disney Board member Sheryl Sandberg, whose Web 2.0 resume would position her to take Disney’s creative efforts online as streaming becomes dominant.
But there’s also a chance that Iger would simply delay his retirement so the ideal candidate can be found without any rush. Here’s an idea … How about Kathleen Kennedy?