Arnold has been a member of the board for 14 years. Iger, who passed the CEO baton to Bob Chapek in February 2020 and announced his plan to leave the company, had been board chair since 2012.
In addition to her role on the Disney board, Arnold has had career stints as an exec at investment firm The Carlyle Group as well as at Procter & Gamble. She has been a board member at McDonald’s Corp. and NBTY.
“Susan is an incredibly esteemed executive whose wealth of experience, unwavering integrity, and expert judgment have been invaluable to the company since she first joined the board in 2007,” Iger said in a press release Wednesday. “Having most recently served as independent lead director, Susan is the perfect choice for chairman of the board, and I am confident the company is well-positioned for continued success under her guidance and leadership.”
Disney evolved significantly under Iger and continues to during the Chapek era, and the board aspect of the company’s progress will be interesting to watch. While Iger redirected the company’s resources and strategic focus toward direct-to-consumer streaming, Chapek has made a number of dramatic moves, many in response to Covid. He created a centralized distribution organization, retooled theme parks and introduced new film-release windows, including some major titles debuting simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+. Iger recounted the streaming pivot in his 2019 memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, invoking several instances of having to persuade the board about certain moves, including the $71 billion acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox.
Arnold is by far the longest-serving Disney board member. Chapek became a director when he got the CEO job last year. The other nine directors arrived between 2016 and 2021.
“On behalf of the board, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Bob Iger for his extraordinary leadership over the past decade-and-a-half,” Arnold said. “Bob has led Disney to amazing heights both creatively and financially, with his clear strategic vision for delivering high-quality branded storytelling, embracing cutting-edge technology, and expanding internationally, and he’s left an indelible mark on The Walt Disney company that will be felt for generations to come. As I step into this new role as chairman of the board, I look forward to continuing to serve the long-term interests of Disney’s shareholders and working closely with CEO Bob Chapek as he builds upon the company’s century-long legacy of creative excellence and innovation.”
Iger has been executive chairman at Disney for nearly two years, with an official focus on creative endeavors. He was CEO from 2005 to 2020 after succeeding Michael Eisner. Prior to that, he held several top roles at both Disney and ABC.