Disney’s businesses are taking severe hits from COVID-19, but former CEO Bob Iger joined the company’s second-quarter earnings call Tuesday to deliver a full-throated comeback message to shareholders.
“The Walt Disney Co. has proven to be exceptionally resilient” over nearly a century in business, Iger said at the top of the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts. “I believe this time will be no different.”
Though the company hasn’t issued a formal announcement about it, Iger has clearly returned to a more operational role as the COVID-19 crisis has worsened. In February, he had passed the CEO baton to company vet Bob Chapek, intending to focus on creative activities at the company. The pandemic complicated the succession process given the severity of the impact on the U.S. and the breadth of vulnerability across Disney’s portfolio. Uniquely challenged given its stake in movie theaters, theme parks and live sports, Disney has seen its shares plunge since March. Before the call, it reported a 63% drop in adjusted earnings in the fiscal second quarter and a $1 billion blow to theme park income.
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During his prepared remarks, Iger sounded themes he had throughout his decade and a half as CEO, a run that was meant to cap off his four-decade Disney and ABC career.
“Obviously, much has changed in the world since our last earnings call,” Iger said, alluding to the first-quarter presentation in February. “As someone who’s been around a while and led this company through some tough times over the past 15 years … I have absolute confidence” in the company’s ability to rebound.
“People find comfort in our messages of hope and optimism,” Iger said. “They miss doing the things that bring them joy,” including going to movie theaters and visiting theme parks.
Disney can be part of the broader recovery of the economy, Iger asserted. “People want good news,” he said. “They want to experience joy and a feeling of togetherness.”
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