(Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co.’s returning Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told employees at a company town hall on Monday that he would look into some of his predecessor’s more controversial decisions, including requiring reservations for guests attending theme parks and moving thousands of staffers to Florida from California.
Iger, speaking at his first companywide event since being reinstalled as CEO on Nov. 20, stopped short of undoing the work of former chief Bob Chapek. Iger said he’d keep in place a hiring freeze implemented earlier this month and urged workers to be skeptical about the future of traditional TV as viewers depart for streaming services. He’ll focus on profitability in the company’s online TV businesses, rather than subscribers, according to people listening to the event who asked not to be identified.
Iger also shot down a rumor about a possible merger between Disney and Apple Inc., calling it “pure speculation.” The executive said he’s comfortable with the assets the company has currently.
Hundreds of Disney workers stood in a long line Monday morning to enter the sound stage in Burbank, California, where the town hall was held, a sign of the great interest employees have in the company’s future and the excitement of having Iger back. After brief remarks from the executive, employees questioned him about particularly hot topics, including legislation in Florida that limits discussion of gender identity in schools.
Iger said the company remains committed to inclusion. Florida and the Reedy Creek Improvement District it operates -- which lawmakers there recently voted to terminate -- will also be topics he needs to study.
“What I can say is the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time, and we have been important to the state of Florida,” he said. “That’s something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.”
Iger plans to discuss the company’s theme-park reservation system with resorts division chief Josh D’Amaro, so that he can “have a better perspective.” Disney introduced a reservation system during the pandemic, which has been helpful for the company’s planning but irritated season-pass holders who want to attend spontaneously. Iger will also examine a decision to move some 2,000 theme-park designers and other staffers to Florida to a new corporate campus its building outside of Orlando.
Plans Iger announced last week, including a possible reorganization of the company’s management structure, are designed to “restore to the creative businesses the control, responsibility, accountability over what we create,” he said. Chapek had restructured the company so that major decisions, such as what movies and TV shows to produce, were put in the hands of a new distribution unit and taken away from the traditional studio and network chiefs. That was unpopular internally and in Hollywood’s creative community.
The executive told staffers they should return to working in the office, though didn’t mandate it. “I worry long term about the negative impact on people who have decided not to spend as much time at the office,” Iger said. “I’m going to spend a lot of time here, and I hope that it’s not lonely.”
Iger, 71, served as Disney’s CEO for 15 years and retired as executive chairman last December. He was called back by the company’s board after Disney’s share price collapsed and employees grew disenchanted with Chapek.
Iger likened his current situation to a song, What’d I Miss, from the hit musical Hamilton. He said he could relate to the historical figure, Thomas Jefferson, who returns from his ambassadorship in France to find things had changed, but also possibilities. “That’s how I feel here,” Iger said. “The status quo is gone. A lot has changed, but the sun is still shining.”
(Updates with additional comments in first paragraph.)
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