May 22, 2022

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Disney names Susan Arnold chairman, replacing Bob Iger

Disney shares were little changed in late trading on Wednesday. They’ve sunk 22% this year as the growth of the streaming business plateaued and the ongoing pandemic reined in expectations for the return of parkgoers and movie audiences.

Arnold, who ran P&G’s beauty and feminine-care businesses, among other jobs, brings international consumer product marketing experience to the role. As a board member for 14 years she’s also steeped in Disney’s unique culture. She is the first woman to hold the position.

Still, the announcement signals that Chapek won’t have the same level of autonomy that Iger and some of his predecessors had.

The role of Disney chairman has taken many forms over the years. Walt Disney himself held the title, as did his brother Roy after Walt’s death. But shareholder rights advocates have long pressed that the job should be separate from that of the chief executive, so that there is more accountability in the executive suite. Disney’s own corporate guidelines recommend that.

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was given the title in 2004 after a large number of Disney shareholders declined to support CEO Michael Eisner in the role. Former P&G CEO John Pepper got the job after Iger took over and Mitchell left. Iger was given both roles in 2012, a move that also brought criticism from corporate governance advocates.

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—Bloomberg News