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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Disney COO Tom Staggs Abruptly Exits - What Happened?

Tom and Mick

Last Monday was a shocking day for the Walt Disney Company on the business side of things. Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tom Staggs who, by almost all accounts, was heir apparent to become the main man at Disney when Chief Executive Office (CEO) Bob Iger was going to step down into retirement in 2018, abruptly tendered his resignation from the company effective in May.   The succession plan for Staggs to become CEO was in place, almost a done deal. What went wrong?

Tom Staggs spent 26 years at Disney.  He was the Chief Financial Officer during the Pixar and Marvel acquisitions.  He was head of Disney Parks and Resorts during the Disney California Adventure makeover and expansion of the Disney Cruise Line. He was popular, well liked by executives as well as rank and file Disney employees. By all appearances, he was literally Bob Iger's right hand man for the last several years. What went wrong?

Well you hear rumblings about the enormous expense of the $5.5 billion construction of Shanghai Disneyland filled with cost overruns along with the project was just flat out late on being ready on time under Stagg's watch. You hear about all the obstacles that have hijacked the smooth construction of the Avatar Land in Walt Disney World.

But mostly, you hear stories that the all powerful Disney Board of Directors not having confidence that Staggs was not the right fit for taking on the tremendously powerful Disney CEO job into the future. I've seen some accounts that some thought that Staggs lacked the necessary creative vision for the company built on creative vision. I've also read account where the Board was a little concerned that Staggs lacked the experience in the important and highly profitable media outlets (ABC-TV, Disney Channels, and the mighty cash cow that is ESPN). This is the area where Bob Iger launched his way to the top.

Variety reported that Staggs was looking for a commitment from the Board of Directors that he indeed would become CEO in 2018. When the vote of confidence did not come, it was adios amigos. He seemed like a nice guy. A lot of people will miss Tom Staggs. I'm sure he will end up doing well somewhere else.

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