Mark Parker Named Disney Chairman, Susan Arnold to Step Down

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

The Walt Disney Company’s Board of Directors has elected independent director Mark Parker as its new chairman, effective following the entertainment giant’s next annual shareholder meeting.

Parker, who has served on Disney’s board for seven years and is Nike’s executive chairman, will succeed Susan Arnold, who will not stand for re-election pursuant to the 15-year term limit under Disney’s Board Tenure Policy. As a result, the size of the board will be reduced to 11 members.

Arnold called Parker “an incredibly well-respected leader” who has helped the company “effectively navigate through a time of unprecedented change.”

“During his four decades at NIKE, Mark has led one of the world’s most recognized consumer brands through various market evolutions and a successful CEO transition, and he is uniquely positioned to chair the Disney Board during this period of transformation,” Arnold added.

Bob Iger, who recently returned as CEO following the company’s ousting of his successor Bob Chapek, added that Parker’s “vision, incredible depth of experience and wise counsel have been invaluable to Disney” and that he looks forward to working with him to “chart the future course for this amazing company.” Iger also thanked Arnold for her “superb leadership” and “tireless work over the past 15 years as an exemplary steward of the Disney brand.”

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In addition to his new role as Disney’s chairman, Parker will chair the board’s newly created Succession Planning Committee, which will review and advise the board on internal and external candidates for Disney’s next CEO.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Disney’s Chairman, and I look forward to working closely with Bob and his management team on a strategy of growth that balances investment with profitability, while preserving Disney’s core mission of creative excellence, to deliver shareholder value,” Parker said in a statement. “At the same time, it is the top priority of mine and the Board’s to identify and prepare a successful CEO successor, and that process has already begun.”

The Board is also nominating a number of incumbent directors for re-election including Parker, Iger, Mary Barra, Safra Catz, Amy Chang, Francis deSouza, Carolyn Everson, Michael Froman, Maria Elena Lagomasino, Calvin McDonald and Derica Rice.

Disney notes that its board has experience across a relevant range of disciplines, including brand, marketing and retail, direct-to-consumer expertise, and technology and innovation. The average tenure of the current board is four years, with three directors serving fewer than two years.

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Parker’s appointment comes as Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management has nominated the activist investor to serve on the board and issued a proposal urging Disney to amend its bylaws.

Disney said that it has had numerous discussions with Peltz over the past few months and remains “open to constructive engagement and ideas that help drive shareholder value.” However, it added that it does not endorse Peltz and recommends that shareholders vote against him.

The company also revealed new details about what Iger plans to accomplish during his new two-year term as CEO.

“Mr. Iger’s mandate is to use his two-year term and depth of experience in the industry to adapt the business model for the shifting media landscape, rebalancing investment with revenue opportunity while bringing a renewed focus on the creative talent that has made The Walt Disney Company the envy of the industry,” the company said in a statement. “Mr. Iger has already taken decisive steps to realign content creation and distribution, and reposition Disney’s streaming platforms and linear broadcast and cable networks for enhanced profitability for the Company.”

Under Iger’s first tenure as CEO from September 2005 through February 2020, Disney’s total shareholder return was 554%, which exceeded the S&P 500 total shareholder return of 244%. The company’s market capitalization grew nearly fivefold during his tenure from $48 billion to over $230 billion.

Disney stock, which is down approximately 38% in the past year, climbed over 1% in after-hours trading Wednesday. The company will discuss its first quarter earnings results for fiscal 2023 after the close of trading on Feb. 8.

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