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Disney chief Bob Iger, architect behind Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar gains, steps down after 15 years

By Benjamin Bullard
Bob Iger with Mickey Mouse

Disney chief Bob Iger, a creative chief who guided a wave of seismic transitions at one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies, has stepped down as CEO, according to multiple media reports. Under Iger’s tenure, Disney grew exponentially with its investment in Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, and showed huge gains in the form of a major studio buyout and the launch of a successful streaming platform.

In a career that’s rewarded sci-fi, fantasy, and animation fans with many new avenues for tapping into their passion, Iger’s departure comes at the end of his most recent major push: the long-awaited arrival of Disney+. The debut late last year of Disney’s family-friendly streaming service won fans early with its stable of Marvel and Star Wars features — especially its early breakout original hit, The Mandalorian

Since replacing Michael Eisner as CEO in 2005, Iger has been at the center of some of Disney’s biggest creative pickups. In 2006, Disney acquired animation powerhouse Pixar, followed in 2009 by its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment — now arguably the most bankable brand in all of movies. With Marvel’s ongoing push to extend the MCU to the small screen with soon-to-arrive Disney+ series like WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Iger steps aside at a time when two of his biggest initiatives over the past decade — TV streaming and the expansion of the MCU — are converging to extend Disney’s reach even further. 

In 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm in an arrangement that reignited the Star Wars franchise with the conclusion of the restarted Skywalker movie trilogy, as well as plans for future films and streaming shows like The Mandalorian, an Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff with Ewan McGregor, and a Rogue One spinoff that follows the earlier adventures of Cassian Andor. 

In perhaps Iger’s biggest achievement as CEO, Disney enormously expanded its entertainment offerings with its mammoth acquisition of 20th Century Fox last year, in the process bringing hugely popular franchises like Avatar, The Simpsons, and X-Men into the fold. 

Iger came to Disney from ABC television in 2000, serving as president and chief operating officer until replacing Eisner in 2005. Disney has named Bob Chapek, formerly the head of the company’s parks division, as Iger’s replacement. Iger himself will continue to serve as Disney chairman through the end of 2021, with Disney reportedly intending to retain him, according to Variety, “to lead the company’s creative endeavors.”