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8 Things You Need To Know About Disney's New CEO Bob Chapek

Last year Disney had a global box office record of $10 billion. The Walt Disney Company is huge. With the Star Wars franchise and Marvel franchises, it has a lot of control over geek entertainment. It was announced this week that all that is under the control of a new leader. Bob Iger stepped down as CEO of Walt Disney Company and long-time Disney veteran Bob Chapek is taking over.

It was a move that shocked everyone. Iger's been in charge of Disney for decades. There had been rumors he was leaving and he'd extended his contract a few time but it was still a shock that it happened so suddenly. The man taking over is unknown to most people. Bob Chapek isn't a household name. But he is now. So who is he? How did he become the most powerful man in entertainment and where is he taking the company?

1. Who is Bob Chapek?

Bob Chapek is a 60-year-old man who's worked with the Disney company for almost three decades. Chapek was born in Hammond, Indiana, U.S.A. He's an intensely private man and many details of his life are left to speculation. The first is his birth date. We know his birth year but not the month or day.

Chapek grew up in Indiana with a love of Disney. His a working mother and a father who was a World War II veteran. Every year they would make the 1,000 mile trip from Indiana to Walt Disney World in Florida. He says those trips made a huge impact on him as a child. "That's where I first developed a deep love for Disney and all that it stands for," Chapek said on the call with analysts.
"That young boy could have never imagined that one day he would get the chance to lead this extraordinary company as the seventh CEO in its nearly 100-year history."

2. Bob Chepak Married His College Sweetheart

Who is Bob Chepak married to? Robert Chapek is married to Cynthia Chapek. While attending Indiana University he met and married the love of his life. In 1980 he married Cynthia Ann Ford and they've been married for 40 years. They have three children. Kimberly Ann, who's now 37, was born first in 1983. Brian Alan was born in 1987 and is 33-years old. They're last daughter 25-year-old Kelly Marie was born in 1995. Between the kids, they have three grandchildren.

3. Bob Chapek Has a Microbiology Degree

In 1981, at 21, he graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a bachelor of science in microbiology. A few years later, in 1984, he got his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Michigan State University. Despite his degrees, he didn't go into the science field. Instead, he worked in advertising at J. Walter Thompson and brand management at H.J. Heinz Company. But the attention to detail needed in microbiology would come in handy later. Then he started working at the "Mouse House".

4. How Did Bob Chapek Start At Disney?

In 1993 Robert Chapek started working at Walt Disney. He interned for two years before being hired. At 33 years old Chapek started working at Disney in the home entertainment unit. He was one of the architects of the "Disney Vault". The home media strategy that releases movies on home video for a limited time. Colleagues of Chapek say he's less charismatic than Bob Iger, but "highly intelligent and organized." He also helped develop Disney's trademark "Fast Play" feature which allows kids to watch a DVD with minimal input. Personally, that's saved my family hours of work. He started making a name for himself at the company.

In 2009 Chapek was promoted to president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios. His focus was distributing content theatrically, for home entertainment, and other mediums like digital releases of Disney's iconic films and content. Chapek was instrumental in inking a deal with Apple to distribute content on its iTunes platform. It's been said that's one of the key reasons he was chosen by Bob Iger. Iger knows that the landscape of media is changing. After a movie is released where and when the picture hits the hungry consumer market is pivotal to its success.

When Chapek was moved to distribution Walt Disney Studios Rich Ross said, "Bob Chapek has been at the forefront of new technology for many years, and has the expertise and track record to guide and consolidate our future distribution efforts."

5. Bob Chapek's Style Described as "Wrenching" But "Successful"

He got another step up in the organization but it was a big disrupter in the company. Back in 2011, he became president of Disney Consumer Products. His style resulted in a huge shift in culture and was described as a "wrenching but ultimately successful restructuring that changed the way Disney approaches the licensing of apparel and toys, among other items." One of his big changes was to restructure the business from product lines to franchises. So that's why you see all the Star Wars stuff in one section and Marvel superheroes in another. Before that Disney princess dolls were sitting next to Spider-Man action figures.

A few years later his star shone even brighter when he became chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2015. He oversaw the largest expansion in the sixty-year history of the parks. Chapek doubled the number of cruise ships Disney owned. But his biggest challenge was coming.

6. China Helped Him Become CEO

The Indiana native launched Shanghai Disneyland Park in 2016. The park covers an area of 3.9 square kilometers (1.5 sq mi) and costs the company over 3.5 billion USD (24.5 billion RMB). The Chinese park was supposed to open in 2015 but several costly delays pushed the project to 2016. Through it all, the man kept everything on course and running smoothly. Iger noticed and worked closely with him. The project was a key strategy for the Walt Disney Company and its successful launch was noticed all the way to the top. Iger began grooming him for the throne.

Chapek knows the need for immersive content based around Disney's massive list of characters and franchises. "We're asked to build the physical manifestations of what our guests love to watch on screens," Chapek told CNN Business last year. "We're really part of a big machine, a big story-telling machine, but we do it in a physical world. I think that's what makes us a bit different."

He oversaw the building of the Avatar-themed land at Walt Disney World. But the most technologically advanced and immersive land in the parks' history is "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. 

In 2018 Walt Disney Company did a massive restructuring that streamlined the business four main business units, which it calls "business segments". Parks & Consumer Products was mainly a merger of Parks & Resorts and Consumer Products & Interactive Media. Chapek became the head of the business segment and one of the leaders in the company in charge of all the parks and all the products produced by Disney including Star Wars and Marvel superheroes.

7. What Happens to Bob Iger?

Mr. Chapek assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of Disney on February 25, 2020, effective immediately. While Bob Iger is no longer the CEO of Walt Disney he's still working there. Robert Iger became the company's Executive Chairman. Chapek's new role has him reporting to Iger and the Board of Directors. Iger is staying on at Disney till the end of his contract on December 31, 2021.

8. What Does the Chapek Mean For the Future of Disney?

With the successful launch of Disney+ the company is in a new position. For the first time, they're controlling both content and distribution of their media. Big changes are happening with Star Wars that could affect decades of movies and television shows. Kevin Feige was recently named Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Comics, Marvel Television, and Marvel Animation. 

All this takes a lot of long-range planning and coordination. Chapek has shown that he admires innovation and can handle complex and complicated projects like Shanghai Disney. The future looks bright with him in charge.

What do you think about Bob Iger leaving? Do you think Disney will be in good hands? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author
Maurice Mitchell has been a passionate science-fiction fan of movies, television, books, and comics since age five. He and his twin brother Nigel created the site "The Geek Twins" to share that passion. Maurice has written and created infographics for sites like The Geek Twins and About.com. His work has been featured on sites like Business Insider, io9 Slashfilm and more.
Read more of his posts | Follow him on Twitter @Mauricem1972 

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