"I Am Returning": Disney Shares Surge After Iger's Surprise Comeback Announcement

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Nov 21, 2022 - 12:20 PM

Walt Disney Co. shares jumped Monday premarket after a late Sunday announcement that Bob Iger would return as CEO after less than a year in retirement to the struggling company after disappointing earnings. 

"It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement — that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to The Walt Disney Company as Chief Executive Officer," Iger wrote in an email to employees, obtained by CNBC

Shares of Disney surged 13% in premarket trading following the surprise news. Shares are down more than 41% year-to-date (as of Friday's close).

Iger, 71, who spent four decades at Disney, including 15 as the CEO, "has agreed to serve as Disney's CEO for two years, with a mandate from the Board to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to work closely with the Board in developing a successor to lead the company at the completion of his term. Mr. Iger succeeds Bob Chapek, who has stepped down from his position," Disney wrote in a press release

"The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period," Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, wrote in a statement.

Iger's return comes after 11 months of Chapek at the helm, which has been nothing but turmoil for the company, burdened by soaring costs at Disney+. Shares of the company are headed for the worst annual decline since the 1970s. 

The latest earnings report showed sales and earnings missed Wall Street expectations. Days later, Chapek announced a hiring freeze. 

While Chapek blamed "macroeconomic factors out of Disney's control" that is causing the company's demise, it is all the factors within their control, including their refusal to produce content that consumers want. American audiences are done with leftist propaganda in their films and television and are now actively researching and avoiding any content that promotes woke ideology and social justice talking points.

Iger is widely respected and will have an uphill battle to turn around the sinking ship. Here's what analysts are saying about his surprise return (list courtesy of Bloomberg):

Morgan Stanley (overweight, PT $125)

  • Iger return gives him the opportunity to finish what he started: "transition Disney's media businesses from legacy distribution to streaming, quickly, profitably, and in the face of rising cordcutting"
  • "Disney's content is under-earning and under-monetized" and Iger has two years "to sustain and enhance the company's creative output."

KeyBanc Capital Markets (overweight, PT $119)

  • Iger's reappointment will be positive for the stock, as he has a proven track record for growing the media giant
  • The announcement "comes unexpectedly" as Chapek's contract was recently extended through July 2025

Wells Fargo Securities (overweight, PT $125) 

  • While the appointment doesn't solve all of Disney's problems, "investors will embrace it as it puts perhaps the best leader in media at the helm, with a mandate to shake things up"

Barclays Capital (equal weight, PT $98) 

  • Given that Chapek's contract as CEO was recently extended for 3 years starting July 1, "the sudden change is completely unexpected"
  • "Iger's long track record and steady hand at Disney is likely to be welcomed by investors"

Meanwhile, WSJ reported that Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management purchased $800 million worth of Disney shares -- opposes the move and wants more cost-cutting measures. He's also pushing for a board seat.