By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Walt Disney Co’s board of directors on Tuesday unanimously voted to extend Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek’s contract for three years, a major vote of confidence in his leadership following recent controversies at the media giant.
Chapek, 63, became Disney’s CEO in February 2020, succeeding Bob Iger just months before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the company’s businesses from theme parks to television, movies and live sports. His current contract was set to expire in February.
“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,” board chair Susan Arnold said in a statement.
“Bob is the right leader at the right time for The Walt Disney Company, and the board has full confidence in him and his leadership team,” Arnold added.
In recent months, some analysts and media executives had wondered whether Chapek’s position was at risk when he upset employees by initially refusing to condemn a bill in Florida that limited LGBTQ discussion in schools.
When the company eventually spoke out against the measure, Florida lawmakers stripped Disney of its self-governing status for Walt Disney World in Orlando. The law has not yet taken effect.
Chapek also shocked Hollywood when he ousted respected TV executive Peter Rice earlier this month.
A 30-year veteran of Disney, Chapek previously ran the theme parks business and the consumer products unit.
The Disney+ streaming service, the company’s top priority, grew substantially during the pandemic to 137.7 million global subscribers as of March.
But Disney faces a variety of competitors as it tries to achieve its stated goal of attracting 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by September 2024.
Disney shares, which have fallen nearly 40% this year, rose about 0.5% to $96.36 in after-hours trading on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru;Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Matthew Lewis)