Disney chief survives row over Florida 'Don't say gay' bill

·2 min read
Bob Chapek - David Livingston/Getty Images
Bob Chapek - David Livingston/Getty Images

The board of Disney has backed embattled chief executive Bob Chapek despite a damaging row over his handling of Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Mr Chapek's contract, which was due to lapse next February, was renewed for another three years, the company said on Tuesday.

It follows speculation about Mr Chapek's future after a series of gaffes, including a damaging political row in Florida, a public dispute between Disney and actress Scarlett Johansson, and the recent disappointing box office performance of Toy Story spin-off Lightyear.

Mr Chapek became the 7th boss in Disney’s nearly 100-year history just weeks before its theme parks and the majority of its content production were shut down due to Covid.

He enjoyed early success with the launch of the Disney+ streaming service, which grew rapidly during the pandemic.

However, the company's share price has tumbled nearly 39pc since the start of the year after a damaging PR row in Florida.

Disney World was recently stripped of its special tax status in Florida after the company clashed with Republican governor Ron DeSantis over his LGBT policies.

Disney publicly condemned the governor's new education law, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which bans discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity for primary school children and limits it for older pupils. Disney's intervention, following internal pressure from staff, was widely seen as mishandled.

The entertainment giant was also sued by Ms Johansson last year, who accused the company of breaching her contract when it released the superhero film Black Widow on its Disney+ while it was screened in cinemas. The two parties later settled the dispute.

Both incidents were seen as damaging to Mr Chapek's credibility as chief executive.

More recently, the new Toy Story instalment Lightyear has disappointed at the box office. The animation set the record for worst week-on-week slump for a Pixar film after making just $152m in its second week.

Disney chairman Susan Arnold said: “Disney was dealt a tough hand by the pandemic, yet with Bob at the helm, our businesses — from parks to streaming — not only weathered the storm, but emerged in a position of strength.

“The Board is committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob’s leadership is key to achieving that goal.”

Mr Chapek recently fired the group’s top television executive, Peter Rice, who had been touted as a potential successor in the chief executive role.

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