Business

Disney plays ‘who will be boss’?

Replacing Han Solo and Rey with an earnest rabbit and streetwise fox looks easy compared to finding a boardroom successor at Disney.

The media giant is scheduled to report its fiscal second quarter results Tuesday after the closing bell. The company is coming off a record quarter thanks to the blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That movie alone brought in $2 billion, helping reignite interest in the entire Star Wars franchise, and boosting profits 86 percent for Disney’s studio division, its second most profitable division behind Disney’s TV networks such as ABC and ESPN.

This past quarter, Disney’s Zootopia film was the big hit, bringing in more than $800 million globally. The studio has been on a streak with Star Wars, Zootopia and now The Jungle Book, helping it capture a quarter of the box office market so far this year. This weekend’s Captain America: Civil War looks like an early successor to keep the Disney movie business booming.

But the fictional characters are no matches for the big personalities vying to run the business at Disney. Longtime CEO Bob Iger will retire in 2018 – eons away in media, but not so for shareholders hoping for a smooth transition for the sprawling media company.

Tuesday’s earnings report is the first since Chief Financial Officer Thomas Staggs’ surprise departure. Staggs was the No. Two executive at Disney and was widely seen as the nature successor to Iger as the top boss. His exit has set off a parlor game of “who will be the boss” at Disney in two years time.

While the animated gags and CGI stunts keep bringing in paying audiences, the real drama at Disney for shareholders is inside the executive suite and boardroom.

Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts ‘The Sunshine Economy’ on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.

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