Kevin Mayer Speaks Out On Getting Passed Over for CEO of The Walt Disney Company

Kevin Mayer started 2020 running Disney+ and did so successfully as the company’s streaming service has broken a multitude of records. After helping Disney+ become a household name and incredibly successful streaming service, Mayer was disappointed to be overlooked when Bob Iger announced that he was stepping down as CEO of the Walt Disney Company last year.

After hearing that Bob Chapek would be named CEO after Bob Iger stepped down, Mayer left the company for a new venture. Mayer became the CEO of popular social media app TikTok, and the COO of the parent company ByteDance. While this seemed like a great new endeavor, Kevin Mayer left after only three months due to the Trump administration’s attempt to ban the app.

When asked if Mayer thought he would become the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, he told CNBC:

I was hoping I would be. I’m not sure hope and expectations are the same. It’s a nice job, CEO of Disney.

Look, if you’d asked me that question five years ago, I would have said, no, I didn’t. I didn’t think I was headed towards the CEO of Disney. But given the confluence of events of Tom Staggs leaving, then there being a bit of a vacuum during the 21st Century Fox deal, which caused Bob Iger to stay a little longer… And the fact that I was able to launch Disney+ so effectively. I also launched ESPN+, and I was running Hulu, and I led the entire reconfiguration of the company into direct to consumer. Bob Iger and the board felt that I should run all of that.

That was, I thought, intended to be a bit of a test run to see if I could be CEO. I’m not sure what I could have done there to prove myself more than I did. I think that Bob left earlier than he expected to.

When asked if Bob Iger suddenly stepping down caught him off guard, Mayer told CNBC:

I didn’t know that was coming at all. Look, my interpretation of it is that Bob Iger wanted to focus more on the creative side of things. He has a lot of affinity for that. And it just sort of escalated quickly. And he and the board of directors needed to make a call about who would be the next CEO.

What I’ve heard is I needed a little bit more seasoning. I’d only been in that role for a couple of years, in an operating role. Before that I was chief strategy officer and a staff role, even though I had a lot of people working for me around the world and all that stuff. And I think that the timing of his ascension to being executive chairman, coupled with the fact that Bob Chapek had a lot of experience….Bob Chapek is a good guy, by the way. He’d worked throughout all of the different areas of Disney. He was in the studio, he was running consumer products, had been running the theme parks. It’s not a bad choice. So I can’t….someone wins and someone loses in that situation. And given the timing of it and in the immediacy of it, I think that people felt that he was the safer pair of hands at the moment.

Kevin Mayer is now chairman of one of billionaire Len Blavatnik’s investment firms, a sports streaming service called DAZN.