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Disney CEO Bob Iger will 'definitely' step down in 2026; succession process 'robust'

Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger said the company is hard at work to find his replacement.

While speaking at the New York Times' DealBook Summit on Wednesday, the executive confirmed the succession process "is robust right now," adding he will "definitely" retire at the end of his contract in 2026.

He also said management has been working hard to avoid another Bob Chapek fiasco.

"I was disappointed in what I was seeing in the transition period and while I was out," Iger said about his former hand-picked successor, who stepped down from the position after less than three years on the job.

Chapek's tenure was riddled in controversy — from political battles and A-list talent problems to controversial reorganizations and the ever-looming shadow of Iger, who spoke out against some of Chapek's decisions even prior to his return.

"I worked hard at distancing myself from it," the executive continued.

He also hinted at the multitude of changes he's made since stepping back into the CEO role last year.

Some include new revenue streams like the ad-supported tier for its streaming service Disney+, in addition to price increases across its streaming services and parks businesses.

He's also committed to slashing $7.5 billion worth of costs by the end of this year, following the layoff of 7,000 employees, and will buy the remaining equity stake in Hulu from Comcast. Meanwhile, he's consistently reiterated sports network ESPN will debut as a fully direct-to-consumer streaming service within the next few years.

But one thing Iger seems to be walking back is the potential for sales of traditional assets.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: C.E.O. of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger speaks during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City. Andrew Ross Sorkin returns for the NYT summit for a day of interviews with Vice President Kamala Harris, President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-Wen, C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and leaders in business, politics and culture.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Disney CEO Iger: walking back his intention to sell off some traditional assets? (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) (Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images)

Earlier this summer, he had said the company would take an "expansive" look at the entertainment giant's old-school TV assets, signaling they could potentially be sold.

Wednesday, however, Iger said legacy assets are not for sale — similar to the message he preached at a company town hall the day prior. Still, the company is "constantly evaluating" their fit within the overall business, he said.

In addition to the future of linear assets, Iger once again doubled down on his quality over quantity strategy when it comes to the future of Disney's content.

The executive said it was a "definite mistake" to increase Marvel output on streaming. His comments come on the heels of multiple box office bombs with "The Marvels" recently drawing the worst debut in MCU franchise history.

Iger noted the bar has been "raised" when it comes to which movies consumers choose to see in theaters amid the streaming boom.

Still, despite all of his changes, Iger hasn't had an easy road. Since taking over, Disney's stock has hit multiyear lows while activist investor Nelson Peltz launched yet another fight against the media giant. This time, he's pushing for multiple board seats.

Iger joked on Wednesday he'd welcome Peltz to the board, telling the crowd: "Help us make sequels!"

Late Wednesday, Disney announced in an SEC filing James Gorman, chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, along with Jeremy Darroch, former head of British television company Sky, will join its board early next year.

"We have to obviously contend with them in some form," Iger said of the activists. "I’m certain that the board will hear them out in terms of what their plans are, what their ideas are."

Still, Iger said he's not focused on that in the near term: "I have a lot to do. I’m not going to get distracted by any of that."

Outside of activist battles, the political firestorms haven't stopped, either, with Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis still locked in multiple state and federal lawsuits. The media giant accused the governor of "ongoing constitutional mutiny" in a court filing at the end of October.

Iger said Wednesday there were efforts through intermediaries to speak with DeSantis, but that those efforts ultimately failed.

Meanwhile, Disney stock, which traded flat on the heels of Iger's comments, has risen about 6% since the start of the year — massively underperforming the S&P 500's (^GSPC) 18% gain over that same time period.

Iger, simply put, has a lot of work ahead of him before he steps down.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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