Bob Chapek made a lot of small mistakes as the CEO of Walt Disney (DIS). He bungled the very public Scarlett Johansson salary negotiations, failed to back his company's LGBTQ position in the "don't say gay" controversy with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and he angered many of the company's top creative executives by changing the company's structure.
Taken on their own, each was a mild gaffe and in healthier economic times, Chapek likely would have gotten more time to find his footing. The problem the now-former CEO faced was that he took over the company right before a global pandemic and at a time where Disney had pledged to invest billions in its streaming serve.
Chapek also suffered from having his incredibly successful predecessor not literally still in the room, but certainly on speed dial for members of the board of directors. With Bob Iger available, rested, and ready to go, along with completely expected, but still somehow "shocking" Disney+ losses, it seemed inevitable that the board would pull the trigger.
It's the same general situation that cost the last two Starbucks (SBUX) CEOs not named Howard Schultz their jobs. Being good with the potential to get better simply isn't good enough when a living legend waits in the wings ready to step back in.
That's what happened at Disney with Iger replacing Chapek and it's what could happen at Amazon (AMZN) if Jeff Bezos decides he's willing to take his old job back.
Amazon's Stock Has Suffered
When Bezos ran Amazon, the market seemed to accept and understand that the company took a long-term view. Profits would be sacrificed if investing in infrastructure made sense and the former CEO never managed to please Wall Street with Amazon's quarterly results.
That's a luxury for a founder who effectively has a controlling interest in Amazon stock that his replacement Andy Jassy does not. Amazon stock fluctuated under Bezos, but the market seemed to broadly accept his "it's always day one" strategy. Jassy has not deviated from the playbook, but there's a lot more skepticism and the company's stock has dropped 44% year to date.
Much like you can't really blame Chapek for Disney's stock price or the market conditions the company operates in, Jassy has not really done anything wrong. You can fault him on some little things, but he has basically adopted the Bezos playbook.
That, however, may not be enough, because while Bezos has lots of other interests, he's still literally in the room, and putting him back in charge would be very appealing to the board and shareholders.
Could Jeff Bezos Take Back Amazon's CEO Job?
While Iger needed Disney's board to want him to come back, Bezos could arguably simply take back his job.
Scott Galloway, a noted voice on retail and an NYU Professor of business, expects that Amazon will spin off its AWS cloud service, which Jassy used to run, and bring Bezos back as CEO for the remainder of the company.
“I think Bezos is going to come back to Amazon as CEO,” Galloway said on a recent episode of the Pivot podcast. “He’s going to wake up and go, ‘My wealth is down by two thirds.’ … And I think a guy like that has a tough time being out of the game this long. I also think he’s arguably, maybe with the exception of [Apple CEO] Tim Cook, the best CEO of the last 50 years. He’s still got a lot of tread left on his tires.”
In that scenario, Jassy saves face as he would likely become CEO of AWS.
Bezos has never been in favor of spinning off any part of the company, but a combination of regulatory pressure and economic concerns could make him consider doing it if he decides to retake the top job.