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Bob Iger's Return As Disney CEO Could Lead To Some Major MCU Changes

One would have to have been living under a rock, or trapped in the Quantum Realm, to have never heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with "Iron Man" in 2008, The Numbers notes that the collection of superhero movies that make up the MCU has been a huge financial success for Disney, having currently earned a staggering $27 billion and counting. In other words, the MCU is an absolute powerhouse for Disney, and the House of the Mouse prefers its Marvel engine to run at peak efficiency.

Bob Iger, who ran Disney as its chairman and CEO from 2005 to 2020, oversaw a massive expansion of Disney properties. According to Forbes, Iger's leadership of Disney saw the company acquire not only Marvel, but Lucasfilm, Pixar, and 21st Century Fox as well. This means that Iger is responsible for Disney becoming the all-encompassing entity that it currently is. However, in 2020, Iger stepped down from his position of authority and told CNBC of one of his reasons for leaving Disney and said, "Over time, I started listening less and maybe with a little less tolerance of other people's opinions, maybe because of getting a little bit more overconfident in my own, which is sometimes what happens when you get built up." He later added, "I became a little bit more dismissive of other people's opinions than I should have been. That was an early sign that it was time. It wasn't the reason I left, but it was a contributing factor."

Bob Iger's replacement shifted the focus of the MCU to streaming

In Bob Iger's legendary wake came Bob Chapek, who took up the reigns of Disney just as the world began to suffer from virus related lock-downs in 2020, which saw several Disney films moved to an exclusive Disney+ premiere, skipping over the conventional release of movies. This was probably most prolific with Disney's handling of "Black Widow," which earned the ire of Scarlett Johansson, who eventually sued Disney and settled out of court for a breach of contract and loss of revenue, according to Rolling Stone.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in September 2022, Chapek was asked if he believed full-blooded theatrical releases are important, and Chapek replied, "I think there are films where theatrical distribution is essential. I think [with] big blockbusters, there are titles that would be well-advised to be launched theatrically and then go on to Disney+, but I don't think that is necessary for a franchise to be born." He continued, "We have flexibility. This is a word I've used now since the beginning of the pandemic, when I first got this job. There's a lot of folks in the business, in the industry, that want the world to go back to what it was, and it's not, 'cause the consumer has moved on." However, fans weren't exactly enthusiastic about Chapek's tenure as Disney's CEO, and as reported by NY Post in February 2022, several fans and shareholders called for Chapek's resignation. One fan even started a Change.org petition that asked Disney to fire Chapek, and it garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Some publications and fans claim that Phase 4 of the MCU has been lackluster

Luckily for the co-signers of the above petition, it looks like Disney may or may not have listened to their requests and have replaced Bob Chapek with Bob Iger. One of the reasons for this massive shakeup over at Disney could about some of the controversial decisions Chapek has made over the past few years, with publications like The Daily Beast claiming that Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been an utter disaster, noting that some of the Phase 4 movies have been met with middling critic reviews and box office results. Considering the feelings surrounding not only Phase 4 but the outgoing CEO Chapek, it makes sense as to why Disney has gone back to their tried-and-true leader of Iger.

In his time away from Disney, Iger has made several comments regarding what became of his beloved company. Speaking with The New York Times in January 2022, Iger said of the Marvel shows on Disney+ and their reception by saying, "I don't think it's the death. I think it's a severe injury that maybe doesn't heal. And what I mean by that is, not fatal. It might be fatal to some." This has to be a blow to Iger's MCU legacy, considering how much time and effort he spent building such a popular cornerstone of current entertainment.

Bob Iger was very surprised at the overwhelming success of the MCU

Even in 2021, The Direct reported Iger's level of satisfaction and surprise at seeing the MCU become the behemoth that it is and added, "I'd have to say honestly that it's exceeded my expectations. Looking back, it probably shouldn't have. I mean, they [Kevin Feige, Louis D'Esposito, other Marvel Studios creatives] are so talented that I should've known that, if we provided them the resources, they would produce at even greater heights, and they have."

Looking at Google Finance, one can see that Disney'se past few years have been incredibly unstable. In March 2020, Disney reached its lowest stock value of the past five years at around $85.98 a share, coinciding with the pandemic's onset. However, a year later, Disney's stock found itself cresting high, with shares trading at $197.14, though the past five months have seen Disney stock struggle to maintain values above $100. With this information in mind, Disney may wish for a return to more stable times and hope that Iger will be able to steer the company in a better direction than his successor/predecessor. For Marvel fans, though, Iger's return may signal a return to simpler times for Marvel films and television shows and to move away from Chapek's obsession with a streaming focus.

Investors are much happier with Bob Iger leading Disney

So what does Bob Iger's return mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, for starters, the news of Iger taking the helm of Disney sent their stock prices skyward, according to The Hollywood Reporter, on account of investors being big fans of Iger's decision-making and history of aiding in Disney's explosive growth in the past. Under Iger's direction, the MCU was given the foundation and direction to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Without Iger directing the Disney ship, the world might not have ever seen the epic conclusion to several years worth of creative effort in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame."

The publication went on to quote Wells Fargo's Steven Cahall, who said, "Iger will be viewed as a catalyst to improve the content aspects of Disney, and we expect bigger potential strategic changes around the long-term shape of DTC (direct-to-consumer). While the announcement doesn't solve all of Disney's problems, we think investors will embrace it as it puts perhaps the best leader in media at the helm with a mandate to shake things up." They also mentioned that Chapek's leadership helped Disney survive much of the pandemic-related issues when it came to entertainment, though now Disney wants more of a return to its previous form, believing that Iger is a much better choice for Disney and, by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bob Iger has a long relationship with much of the MCU talent

Besides the obvious financial implications of Bob Iger's return, his insight and long-time working relationship with the Marvel branch of Disney may aid in giving the MCU a much-needed breath of fresh air. The past few years have seen several different shows that essentially exist all on their own, with only a tenuous connection to the rest of Marvel's properties. Shows like "Loki," "Moon Knight," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law," "Ms. Marvel," and "WandaVision" were all given tremendous freedom, which worked for the individual shows, but they were only loosely connected to each other through perhaps off-handed comments or references. With Iger's return, we may be seeing much more of a focus on quality and continuity since Iger has made comments in the past to BBC about pushing out too much content too quickly as a detriment to the Disney brand. 

Iger has also fully supported Marvel ringmaster Kevin Feige over the years, and Iger is actually responsible for Feige's current creative control. Previously, there had been a bit of a conflict within Disney involving Feige and Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, where both were attempting to use their influence to steer the direction of the MCU.

Bob Iger saw the ascent of the MCU and is perfect to refocus their efforts

According to Cosmic Book News, Bob Iger said of the previously mentioned fight, "Kevin is one of the most talented film executives in the business, but my sense was that the strained relationship with New York was threatening his continued success. I knew I had to intervene, and so in May 2015, I made the decision to split Marvel's movie-making unit off from the rest of Marvel and bring it under Alan Horn and the Walt Disney Studios. Kevin would now report directly to Alan, and would benefit from his experience, and the tensions that had built up between him and the New York office would be alleviated."

Between the financial ramifications, the long history, and business acumen, Iger is a perfect replacement for his replacement. Joking aside, Iger is one of the people responsible for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it makes perfect sense as to why Disney wanted to bring him back in the first place. Although Iger left because he felt like he was becoming too close to the MCU and too confident for his own good, a couple of years away is always great to refocus one's mind. Ultimately, Iger's return to Disney should signal a new direction for Marvel or at least a return to a previous form.