Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Chris Katje

Iger’s Comments On Writers And Actors Strike Spark Controversy

Bob Iger attends the Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2023, in Cannes, France. (VITTORIO ZUNINO CELOTTO/GETTY IMAGES)

The media industry is going through a major event with both writers and actors agreeing to strike over wages and working conditions. The double strike is the first time that both parties have joined the picket lines since 1960.

One media executive’s criticism of the timing of the strike has led to a huge backlash.

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, walks to lunch at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 13, 2023, in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world’s most wealthy and powerful figures from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (KEVIN DIESTSCH/GETTY IMAGES) 

Among the people who shared comments on the strike was Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) CEO Bob Iger, who recently had his contract extended through 2026.

“We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” said Iger about the strikes during an interview with CNBC.

“I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver.”

Iger said that expectations from those on strike might not be realistic.

“And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

Iger’s comments were met with criticism given the battle over wages and working conditions.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was among those who called out Iger.

“CEOs keep pretending they can’t afford to pay workers fairly while they themselves are raking in millions off of workers’ labor,” said Reich.

Disney blog InsidetheMagic shared that while Iger is criticizing the demands of his workers, he has spent millions of dollars on several items over the years. Among the items highlighted included a mansion in Los Angeles that underwent renovations last year as Disney laid off ESPN workers. The home was purchased for $19.5 million previously and is now worth $33 million after renovations.

The article also highlighted a yacht owned by Iger and a rumored second yacht being built. A SEC filing from Trian Partners, led by Nelson Peltz, was also mentioned in the article. Peltz attempted a meeting with Iger and the Disney board that he said was postponed due to the Disney CEO wanting to “sail his yacht off the coast of New Zealand.”

Susan Sarandon joins SAG-AFTRA members and supporters on the picket line as the SAG-AFTRA Actors Union Strike continues on Day 7 in front of Netflix and Warner Bros on July 19, 2023, in New York City. Members of SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s largest union which represents actors and other media professionals, have joined striking WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers in the first joint walkout against the studios since 1960. The strike could shut down Hollywood productions completely with writers in the third month of their strike against the Hollywood studios. (ALEXI ROSENFELD/GETTY IMAGES) 

Other items that Iger spent thousands on include courtside tickets to the Los Angeles Clippers NBA games and intense health and wellness routines and equipment.

A Rolling Stone article highlighted Disney staff members being upset at Iger calling the demands of those striking as unrealistic.

“There comes a time when enough is enough. Those comments just went a little too far,” said Disney writer Chas, who asked Rolling Stone not to use a last name.

Chas shared that Disney previously took away free lunches for writers who were also earning minimum wage. The writer said that when the higher-paid writers found out, they provided cash and gift cards for the lower-paid writers to be able to get lunch while working.

“It felt like a Catch-22 because it was a very appreciated gesture, but it was a gesture that they shouldn’t have even been put into this situation to have to offer. It really was very dehumanizing, and it just felt like, “Wow, I’m really not valued here.’”

Iger, who previously led Disney as CEO from 2005 to 2020, was brought back on board to replace Bob Chapek in November 2022.

Iger is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is now set to receive an annual bonus that is five times his base salary, according to Reuters. Iger’s November contract saw him getting paid up to $27 million per year.  

Benzinga previously reported on the low residual checks members of Hollywood are receiving as they battle to get paid based on the success of streaming platforms.

The former Disney CEO was welcomed back by investors with open arms as he was previously responsible for acquisitions that included Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox. Iger also helped launch the Disney+ streaming platform. During his 15 years as CEO, a $1,000 investment in Disney stock would have turned into $5,575.92, generating returns of 457.6% for investors.

Disney’s shares have fallen since Iger took the CEO position back and the media giant is facing struggles that include box office misses and more.

The impact of the writers’ strike could impact the financial future of Disney and Iger’s comments could also upset its loyal employees and fans.

Produced in association with Benzinga

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.