Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek Breaks Silence Because of Bob Iger’s ESPN Plan

Bob Chapek served as Disney CEO from 2020 to 2022.

Former Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek has thoughts on Bob Iger’s ESPN plans. Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

As The Walt Disney Company (DIS) tries to map out its plans for ESPN, one of its past leaders has decided to weigh in on the sports brand’s prospects. Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney from 2020 to 2022, said in a new CNBC documentary that current Disney CEO Bob Iger’s plan to bring in a new stakeholder in ESPN would be unnecessary. 

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“Strategically, I don’t really see a benefit in bringing on yet another minority partner into ESPN,” Chapek said in the documentary. “How ESPN tries to stay relevant as cable declines.”

The new documentary outlines how ESPN’s business model is no longer sustainable because of the industry-wide shift from cable to streaming. ESPN already has its own streaming service, ESPN+, but the brand has other streaming plans in store.     

ESPN is currently 80 percent owned by Disney and 20 percent by Hearst Communications through a joint venture called ESPN Inc. Iger is looking for another minority investor in ESPN, as the sports network faces new developments, including a part in a joint streaming venture among Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and FOX (FOXA) and a separate ESPN streaming service that launches next year. 

Chapek believes ESPN should take full control of its own future. “It seems incumbent upon the market leader in sports, as ESPN, that they’ve got an opportunity to simplify this,” he said. “Streaming is all about satisfying the customers with a more personalized or customized type of experience. If anyone can play that role, it should be ESPN.” 

Chapek held various leadership roles at Disney from head of consumer products to head of theme parks over the time span of almost three decades. He was named CEO in 2020 but ousted two year later. He recently took on a new role, this time in the tech world. In January, he was appointed to the board of health tech firm Masimo.

Disney shareholders are meeting on April 3 for a highly anticipated vote as activist investors are vying for board seats. Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners and former Disney executive Jay Rasulo will be challenging Iger’s leadership.    

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek Breaks Silence Because of Bob Iger’s ESPN Plan