Time is ticking on Bob Iger’s tenure as CEO of Disney, a role he’s had since 2005. After last year’s wild succession plan disruption with the departure of Tom Staggs, Disney’s COO aka Iger’s heir apparent, Iger and the rest of Disney’s Board of Directors has remained silent about who could take the job.
While many candidates have been speculated, there are lots of reasons on why NBCUniversal’s CEO Steve Burke should become the next “Big Cheese”. Below are a few:
1) He helped start the Disney Stores
After graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Burke joined Disney to help start up the retail business of the Company. Disney Stores have had much success since, with nearly 400 stores now open around the globe.
2) He was in charge of Disneyland Paris
After launching Disney Store, Burke moved to France to help reorganize the business structure and operations of the first and only Disney Park in Europe. The park was only opened a few months before Burke was tapped to step in after a large labor dispute.
3) He lead ABC Broadcasting
Disney bought ABC Broadcasting (Capital Cities/ABC) for $19 billion in 1995. In the merger, Burke was made President of the television division. While his father Daniel Burke was CEO of Capital Cities/ABC before the merger, its often credited that Burke earned his position at ABC after his success at both Disney Store and Disney Parks.
4) He continues to build successful businesses in the entertainment industry
After a few years at ABC, Burke made the move to Comcast, the U.S.-based telecommunications giant, to serve as President of its cable TV division. He is credited for making Comcast brand the largest residential cable TV and internet service provider and building its wireless business with AT&T.
After Comcast decided to merge with NBCUniversal back in 2011, Burke assumed the additional title of CEO of NBCUniversal overseeing all of NBC’s business units including NBC Television, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts.
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NBC is arguably the most similar to Disney in that both companies have products that compete in the same space. Business analysts have found NBC operating more and more like Disney with each passing year, which poses Burke a unique opportunity should it present itself; That opportunity being a CEO-elect of Disney. He already has experience in high-profile and high-risk jobs within each of Disney’s major business units that still exist today.
Many agree Burke has the wit, stamina, connections, and smarts to succeed Iger. Iger does know of his abilities as they did work together during Burke’s tenure at Disney. So while he did accept Comcast/NBC’s offer to extend his contract as CEO until 2020, that’s only one-and-a-half years after Iger is due to exit.
At the same time, Comcast/NBC have deep pockets and might be willing to fight to keep the Disney-trained executive on their side in hopes of one day beating Disney at their own game.