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Why Trump is Pushing for Higher Oil Prices

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Major oil-producing nations agreed yesterday to cut output nearly 10 million barrels per day, starting in May and running into 2022. The deal effectively ends the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which flooded the world with crude over the past month.

An unusually broad coalition came together on the deal, brokered by President Trump. Low oil prices have battered debt-laden U.S. energy companies, putting the president in the unfamiliar position of coordinating with the OPEC cartel instead of criticizing it. “This will save hundreds of thousands of energy jobs in the United States,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

• As Bloomberg put it: Mr. Trump “became the first American president to push for higher oil prices in more than 30 years.”

Prices barely budged. An uptick after the deal was announced faded, and never threatened to put much of a dent in the decline recorded in recent weeks. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude, the American benchmark, has fallen more than 60 percent this year.

Demand has fallen faster than the proposed cuts, making the production deal “historic yet insufficient” according to analysts at Goldman Sachs. They estimate that coronavirus shutdowns will depress oil demand by 19 million barrels per day in April and May, leaving the market oversupplied even after the cuts. Factoring in patchy compliance — always a feature of these deals — they are sticking with their 2020 price forecast of $20 per barrel for W.T.I. crude.

Two weeks ago, President Trump said he wanted the U.S. economy “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” But infections and deaths have yet to peak, and that deadline was scrapped. But deciding when the country will reopen will be the most pivotal decision of his presidency, Mr. Trump has said.

The president is getting conflicting advice, according to in-depth reports from The Times. Peter Baker, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Alan Rappeport set the scene:

“The phone calls from his business friends compete against the television images of overwhelmed hospitals. The public health experts tell him what he is doing is working, so he should not let up yet. The economic advisers and others in his White House tell him what he has done has worked, so he should begin to figure out how to ease up. Tens of thousands more could die. Millions more could lose their jobs.”

• Those “business friends” include Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone and the investors Paul Tudor Jones and Nelson Peltz.

Medical experts are pushing back on a quick reopening of the economy, according to Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Mark Mazzetti and Julian E. Barnes. (That’s a lot of bylines, which means this deeply researched report is well worth your time.)

• Emails from public health professionals both inside and outside the government reveal unheeded calls for aggressive action to slow the spread of the virus weeks before lockdowns were announced. (The group called itself “Red Dawn,” a reference to the 1984 movie about a band of Americans trying to save the country after a foreign invasion.)

How will we know when it’s safe to reopen? The New York Times Magazine convened a panel of five experts from different fields to discuss.

Joe Biden weighs in. “An effective plan to beat the virus is the ultimate answer to how we get our economy back on track,” the likely Democratic presidential candidate writes in an Op-Ed for The Times. “So we should stop thinking of the health and economic responses as separate.”

In late February, Bob Iger announced that he would step down as Disney’s C.E.O. and pass the reins to Bob Chapek, the head of the group’s theme parks and cruises. As the coronavirus ravaged its business, Mr. Iger, now Disney’s executive chairman, has “effectively returned to running the company,” reports Ben Smith of The Times.

Disney could be losing as much as $30 million a day, according to analyst estimates. It is furloughing tens of thousands of workers at its resorts. ESPN doesn’t have any sports to show. Film and television production has ground to a halt.

• A bumper opening for the Disney Plus streaming service — it signed up 50 million users in just five months — won’t be enough to offset the declines in other parts of the company.

Mr. Iger’s contract runs through the end of 2021, and he planned to “direct Disney’s creative endeavors” while ceding other responsibilities to Mr. Chapek. That’s now in doubt, reopening Disney’s fraught succession planning just as it seemed settled. As Mr. Iger told Ben:

“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!”

🏦 America’s biggest banks are all scheduled to report their latest earnings: JPMorgan and Wells Fargo on Tuesday; Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs on Wednesday; and Morgan Stanley on Thursday. It’s going to be ugly.

💊 Quarterly earnings from Johnson & Johnson (Tuesday) and Abbott Laboratories (Thursday) will be closely watched for news of progress on coronavirus therapies and testing.

💰 BlackRock is to report its earnings on Thursday, revealing the extent of asset outflows during the market turmoil.

📉 On Thursday, another grim reading for initial unemployment claims will add to the 17 million Americans who have filed over the previous three weeks.

🇨🇳 China reports first quarter G.D.P. on Friday, widely expected to show its first contraction in more than 40 years.


• PayPal and Intuit have won approval to distribute emergency loans to small businesses. (CNBC)

• Macy’s has hired Lazard to explore rescue financing options. (Reuters)

• In the era of social distancing, deal makers are conducting due diligence via drone. (Bloomberg)

Politics and policy

• The Trump administration has backed off tougher rules on food stamps, at least for now. (NYT)

• Lawmakers who have long lobbied for the U.S. to be tougher on China are using the pandemic to press for punitive measures. (NYT)


• Apple and Google are teaming up on a smartphone feature that enables users to track infected people they’ve come close to. (NYT)

• Can you run a continent via Zoom? (The Economist)

• How to prevent “Zoombombing” in a few easy steps. (NYT)

Best of the rest

• Big Business promised a gentler form of capitalism. It’s not happening during the pandemic. (NYT)

• Will Burning Man be the same in virtual form? (NYT)

• “This is what it will take to get us back outside” (MIT Tech Review)

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Bob Iger Thought He Was Leaving on Top. Now, He’s Fighting for Disney’s Life.

The Walt Disney Company turned franchises like Marvel and “Star Wars” into the biggest media business in the world, and last fall it was putting the finishing touches on the image of a storied character: its chief executive, Bob Iger.

In late September, Mr. Iger, 69, published “The Ride of a Lifetime,” an engaging work of self-hagiography. The handsome executive, who seriously considered running for president this year, spent the next month on the kind of media tour that Disney is known for: he reveled in the successful start of a streaming service that immediately rivaled Netflix, was hailed as “businessperson of the year” by Time and described as “Hollywood’s nicest C.E.O.” in an article in the The Times by Maureen Dowd. Even his friends wondered if the soft-focus Instagram ads produced for his MasterClass on leadership were a bit much.

It all went so well that Mr. Iger decided it was time to do something he had postponed four times since 2013: retire as C.E.O.

In early December, Disney executives say, he told his board that he was ready to leave. Around that time, a handful of people in Wuhan, China, began developing mysterious coughs.

At the end of January, a few days after Disney was forced to close its Shanghai theme park as the coronavirus spread, Mr. Iger and the board stuck with their plan, agreeing that he would step back to become executive chairman and that the low-profile head of the parks and cruise business, Bob Chapek, would take over immediately as chief executive. They finalized the arrangement even as the stock market began to shudder. And on Feb. 25, they shocked Hollywood with the news that Mr. Iger’s 15-year run had ended.

The seemingly abrupt announcement prompted intense speculation about the reasons for Mr. Iger’s exit. “Sex or health?” one media executive who knows him texted another that night. Two weeks later, a different question emerged: Had Mr. Iger, with his deep ties to China and legendary timing, seen the coronavirus about to devastate his global realm? Did he get out just in time?

Mr. Iger, who has always carefully managed his image, told me in an email, there was no more than met the eye.

“No surprises … nothing hidden … nothing different or odd to speculate about ….,” he wrote, ellipses and all.

In fact, people close to Mr. Iger and the company said in interviews that the real question wasn’t whether he saw the crisis coming — but whether his focus on burnishing his own legacy and assuring a smooth succession left him distracted as the threats to the business grew. No big media company is more dependent on its customers’ social and physical proximity than Disney, with its theme parks and cruise lines. Few have been hit harder by the pandemic.

And now, Mr. Iger has effectively returned to running the company. After a few weeks of letting Mr. Chapek take charge, Mr. Iger smoothly reasserted control, BlueJeans video call by BlueJeans video call. (Disney does not use Zoom for its meetings for security reasons.)

The new, nominal chief executive is referred to, almost kindergarten style, as “Bob C,” while Mr. Iger is still just “Bob.” And his title is “executive chairman” — emphasis on the first word.

Mr. Iger is now intensely focused on remaking a company that will emerge, he believes, deeply changed by the crisis. The sketch he has drawn for associates offers a glimpse at the post-pandemic future: It’s a Disney with fewer employees, leading the new and uncertain business of how to gather people safely for entertainment.

“It’s a matter of great good fortune that he didn’t just leave,” said Richard Plepler, the former HBO chief. “This is a moment where people first and foremost are looking to an example of leadership that has proved itself over an extended period of time — and Bob personifies that.”

The story of the Walt Disney Company since Mr. Iger’s predecessor, Michael Eisner, took it over in 1984 is one of astonishing growth that has become the model for the modern, global media business. The company turned its tatty icons like Mickey Mouse into cash cows. Mr. Iger has spent more than 40 years working for companies that are now part of Disney, and has earned his reputation through bold acquisitions. He bought Pixar, then Marvel, then Lucasfilms, for single-digit billions, and quickly created many more billions in value with them. Mr. Iger had the greatest job on earth, ruling not just a company but a “nation-state,” as California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, described Disney recently.

But Disney’s much-imitated model was almost perfectly exposed to the pandemic. The shift from on-screen entertainment into in-person experiences helped Disney become the biggest media company in the world. But those businesses have been impossible to protect from the pandemic. The company’s largest division brought in more than $26 billion in the year ending last June by extending its brands to cruise ships and theme parks. Those are all shuttered now. It has three new cruise ships under construction in Germany, their futures unclear. The jewel in its second largest division, television, is ESPN, which in a sports-less world is now broadcasting athletes playing video games. The third group, studio, had expected to bring in most of its revenue from movie openings in theaters, which are now closed.

There has been a glimmer of good news in the introduction of Disney+. The company’s troubled share price jumped about 7 percent in after-hours trading last Wednesday on the news that the streaming service had attracted 50 million subscribers. But the project is still an investment, years away from generating revenue that could replace a big movie opening in theaters. And the service is desperate for new content — at a time when television and film production has ground to a halt.

This all means the company is losing as much as $30 million or more a day, the media industry analyst Hal Vogel estimated in an interview. The company borrowed $6 billion at the end of March, a sign both of its desperate plight and lenders’ confidence that it could rebound.

In an emergency like this, Mr. Iger said, he had no choice but to abandon his plan to pull back.

“A crisis of this magnitude, and its impact on Disney, would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years!” he said in his email.

That realization appears to have hit just after the company’s March 11 annual shareholder gathering in Raleigh, N.C., which served as Mr. Chapek’s debut and was staged as a carefully scripted handoff.

“I’ve watched Bob [Iger] lead this company to amazing new heights, and I’ve learned an enormous amount from that experience. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with him during this transition,” Mr. Chapek said at the meeting. (A Disney spokeswoman declined to make Mr. Chapek available for an interview.)

The men flew from there to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to meet executives worried about the effect of social distancing on their business; they announced the park’s closing the next day. Then, they flew back to Los Angeles and on the way, said a person familiar with their conversation, they discussed the depth of the crisis. Mr. Iger made clear that he would remain closely involved.

The next day, March 13, was their last in the office. In early April, Mr. Chapek sent a bleak internal email announcing a wave of furloughs. He pushed immediate cuts and freezes on everything from development budgets to contractors’ pay.

The company employed 223,000 as of last summer, and won’t say how many workers are furloughed, but the numbers are huge. It includes more than 30,000 workers  in the California resort business alone, according to the president of Workers United Local 50 that represents some of those workers, Chris Duarte. Another 43,000 workers in Florida will be furloughed, the company confirmed on Sunday. All the workers will keep their benefits, but their last paychecks come April 19.

The mood at Disney is “dire,” said a person who has done projects with the company. “They’re covering the mirrors and ripping clothes.”

Mr. Iger, meanwhile, is trying to figure out what the company will look like after the crisis. One central challenge is to establish best practices for the company and the industry on how to bring people back to the parks and rides while avoiding the virus’s spread — using measures like taking visitors’ temperatures.

Mr. Iger also sees this as a moment, he has told associates, to look across the business and permanently change how it operates. He’s told them that he anticipates ending expensive old-school television practices like advertising upfronts and producing pilots for programs that may never air. Disney is also likely to reopen with less office space. He’s also told two people that he anticipated the company having fewer employees. (Mr. Iger said in an email on Sunday evening that he had “no recollection of ever having said” that he expected a smaller work force. “Regardless, any decision about staff reductions will be made by my successor and not me,” he added.)

Mr. Iger’s own narrative had been written to a neat conclusion. Now, his legacy will probably be defined in the unexpected sequel of one of the great American companies fighting for its life.

And Disney’s endlessly troublesome question of succession — which had finally, for a couple of weeks, seemed settled — may be open again. One person close to the company said Mr. Iger assured Mr. Chapek that the extraordinary circumstances would be taken into consideration in the board’s evaluation of Mr. Chapek’s performance. But in reality, two hard, unpredictable years will determine if he can hold the job. Two other executives who were passed over for Mr. Chapek — Kevin Mayer and Peter Rice — remain at the company. Nobody knows when Americans will go to the movies again, much less get on cruise ships.

And nobody knows when — or whether — Mr. Iger will have another moment to leave on top.

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Center Stage at Disney After a Career Out of the Spotlight

LOS ANGELES — The second that Robert A. Iger stepped down as Disney’s chief executive on Tuesday — almost two years sooner than expected — Hollywood broke into frenzied gossip.

“The king abdicates the throne!” a prominent film producer texted a reporter. “Surprising and baffling,” a senior executive at a rival studio said in an email. Another asked, “Do we think Iger might run for president after all?”

And then came a second round of questions: Chapek who?

Bob Chapek, who replaced Mr. Iger effective immediately, is well known inside the Walt Disney Company, where he has quietly worked for 27 years, mostly in unflashy businesses like consumer products and film distribution. Most recently, he ran the Disney division that includes theme parks and cruise ships.

But a larger-than-life executive Mr. Chapek is not. To large swaths of Hollywood, in fact, he is an unknown.

Mr. Chapek, 60, would gladly skip a red-carpet premiere to spend a quiet night at home, friends say. He lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles, far from the fashionable Brentwood and Pacific Palisades neighborhoods where most power players reside. He and his wife, Cindy, have been married for 38 years. At media events, such as the 2018 opening of Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World in Florida, Mr. Chapek amiably performs his role (in that case, yukking it up with Buzz Lightyear on a stage). But he is happy to not be the center of attention.

Mr. Chapek, known as “Bob C” inside Disney, has almost no experience in television, which remains a $25 billion annual business for Disney and where Mr. Iger — cool and charismatic — made his name before taking over as chief executive in 2005.

But comparing Mr. Chapek to Mr. Iger may be missing the point.

No one can reasonably be expected to fill Mr. Iger’s shoes, not only because he has a singular personality but because the company has changed so much during his tenure. When Mr. Iger took over as chief executive, Disney had two movie studios. Now it has eight, including Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Blue Sky and Searchlight. The company had two cruise ships in 2005. It will soon have seven. Annual theme park attendance has grown to 159 million worldwide, from about 115 million. Disney has two major new streaming services, Hulu and Disney Plus, both of which are making original programming to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the coming HBO Max.

With all of the sprawl, not even Mr. Iger can run Disney the way he has run it. In the past, he has been more involved in creative decisions than people might realize. He personally pushed ahead “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel.” He tasted all of the food planned for Shanghai Disneyland, gave feedback on ride-operator costumes and personally chose the spot where a statue of Walt Disney would be placed.

“In thinking about what I want to accomplish before I leave the company at the end of ’21, getting everything right creatively would be my No. 1 goal,” Mr. Iger told analysts on Tuesday. “I could not do that if I were running the company on a day-to-day basis.”

And despite his low profile in the broader entertainment industry, Mr. Chapek is not a surprising choice. Mr. Iger signaled that Mr. Chapek was a leading candidate in his memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” which was published in September. At one point, Mr. Iger recounted a moment in 2016 when Mr. Chapek rose to multiple challenges at once — opening the Shanghai Disney Resort, handling a secret security threat at Disney World in Florida and dealing with the death of a toddler (by alligator attack) at a Disney World lake.

“The bond you form in high-stress moments like this, when you’re sharing information that you can’t discuss with anyone else, is a powerful one,” Mr. Iger wrote of Mr. Chapek.

Mr. Chapek also has training wheels. For the next 22 months, he will report to Mr. Iger, who took the title executive chairman, and to the Disney board. Mr. Iger will serve as a type of chief creative officer. “My intention is to really spend time on all of our creative endeavors, whether at ESPN or the Fox studios or our media networks,” Mr. Iger told analysts.

People inside Disney described Mr. Chapek as no frills. He is known for setting clear goals and empowering lieutenants to accomplish them. Colleagues admire his work ethic and the manner in which he has climbed from humble roots in blue-collar Hammond, Ind.

He doesn’t let sacred cows stand in his way, numerous Disney executives said.

At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, for instance, Mr. Chapek pushed through an overhaul of a free-fall ride then known as Tower of Terror. Themed around a hotel from the golden age of Hollywood, the attraction was a guest favorite. But Mr. Chapek and his team — in the face of criticism from traditionalists inside and outside the company — made it a mission to supercharge Disney parks by incorporating more film franchises. So they remade Tower of Terror as an outpost for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the blockbuster Marvel film series. The revamped ride is now one of the most popular in Disney’s entire theme-park portfolio.

Under Mr. Chapek’s reign, the theme park division used expansions, new fees (like charging for parking at some Disney World hotels) and higher ticket prices (annual increases of as much as 9 percent for daily entry) to deliver five consecutive years of growth. The division generated $6.8 billion in operating profit last year — 46 percent of Disney’s total income.

“He’s classy and, at the same time, he can put on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt and be as blue collar as the next guy,” said Gill Champion, president of POW! Entertainment, which counts the comics legend Stan Lee as a co-founder. “He lives and breathes the Disney lifestyle.”

The announcement allows Mr. Iger to crown Mr. Chapek at Disney’s annual meeting on March 11. It was also seen as a move by Mr. Iger to head off any potentially distracting executive jockeying inside the company.

The abruptness of the announcement, however, led to rampant speculation about a reason. Some noted that Disney is set to have a difficult financial year. The company’s 2020 film slate boasts fewer surefire blockbusters; there will be no “Star Wars” movie this year, for instance. Cord-cutting seems to be accelerating, putting ESPN under more pressure.

And the coronavirus has already closed Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland and threatens other resorts and Disney Cruise Line. Mr. Chapek told CNBC on Tuesday that the coronavirus was “certainly a bump in the road” but said the company was prepared. “We’ll come through this like we’ve come through every other challenge that we’ve had,” he said.

Mr. Chapek will be the public face of the company, but he is best known by the chief executives of the major retail chains, whom he got to know while serving as Disney’s DVD chief in the 1990s and when running Disney’s consumer products division from 2011 to 2015.

“We visited Walmart stores together more than 20 years ago,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, said in an email on Wednesday. “He’s always been someone who’s willing to learn what Walmart customers are looking for and come to us with big and creative ideas.”

He added, “Trusting your partners is really important in this business, and Bob has always been someone we can trust to deliver on what he says.”

In an email, Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, called Mr. Chapek a “savvy operator” with a “deep understanding of what Disney fans really love about their brand.”

And it is useful to remember that Mr. Iger was not viewed as a transformative leader when he got the job, either. Many worried, in fact, that he did not have the necessary creative chops.

“We and many others never expected Iger to be the C.E.O. he ended up being,” Richard Greenfield, a founder of the LightShed Partners research firm, wrote in a client note. “Given how wrong we were about Iger back in 2005, it is absurd to prejudge Chapek’s potential to succeed, and the reality is there was no candidate for the C.E.O. job that checked all of the aforementioned boxes.”

Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.


NYT > Business

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Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger Hands Keys to Magic Kingdom to Its 7th Chief

LOS ANGELES — Robert A. Iger, who delayed his retirement four times in recent years, abruptly stepped down as Disney’s chief executive on Tuesday. But he will not be going far.

The Walt Disney Company said that Mr. Iger, who has run Disney for nearly 15 years, would be replaced as chief executive by Bob Chapek, a 27-year veteran of the entertainment conglomerate who has most recently served as chairman of Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses. Mr. Chapek will report to the Disney board, which will continue to be led by Mr. Iger, who will also take on the title of executive chairman and “direct Disney’s creative endeavors,” the company said, until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021.

Mr. Iger, 69, had been expected to remain chief executive until that date, with some people in the entertainment industry speculating that he would extend his reign for a fifth time. As such, the out-of-the-blue passing of the baton to Mr. Chapek, 60, surprised Wall Street and Hollywood. Disney shares dropped 3 percent in after-hours trading, to $125.30, before regaining some ground.

Disney has a history of bumpy transfers of power. Mr. Iger’s predecessor, Michael D. Eisner, tried to cling to his job, and in the end he turned over a struggling company.

“It’s only abrupt in other people’s eyes because we haven’t been talking about it publicly,” Mr. Iger said by phone. “I have been discussing this with the board for a number of months. I basically described what I thought my best use was given that our asset base and strategy are pretty much in place. And that was to fully focus on the creative side of our business and make sure that our creative pipelines are vibrant.”

He added, “That is very, very important, especially as we roll out Disney Plus around the world. In thinking about what I want to accomplish before I leave the company at the end of ’21, getting everything right creatively would be my No. 1 goal. I could not do that if I were running the company on a day-to-day basis.”

The Disney Plus streaming service is a make-or-break effort to reposition Disney for growth — its traditional cable businesses are in decline — and compete with the tech giants that are aggressively moving into Hollywood. Introduced in November, Disney Plus has nearly 30 million subscribers in the United States and will arrive in the coming months in Europe and India. Other significant near-term challenges for Disney include the coronavirus outbreak; the Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland have been closed for a month and the virus could hurt parks in Japan, France and the United States.

Mr. Iger said the Disney board “identified Bob actually quite some time ago as a likely successor.” He said he decided not to elevate Mr. Chapek to an interim role — perhaps chief operating officer, a job that has not existed at Disney since Thomas O. Staggs, once Mr. Iger’s heir apparent, left the company in 2016. “I did not believe that would bestow on him the kind of autonomy that I wanted him to have during this transition,” Mr. Iger said. Furthermore, “I’m not going to suddenly be working three days a week. My new role is a full-time job.”

And, no, he is not planning to run for president, as he had flirted with in the past. “I think it’s a little late for that,” Mr. Iger said with a chuckle.

Mr. Chapek, who has limited creative experience, became the seventh chief executive in Disney’s nearly 100-year history. He can come across as a bit stiff in comparison to the magnetic Mr. Iger, whose celebrated run at the company has made him a corporate celebrity. But what Mr. Chapek may lack in charisma, he makes up for with an uncynical admiration for Disney’s sentimental style of entertainment, gladly clapping along with the parade when he visits the parks and gamefully engaging in scripted banter with costumed characters.

“I have absolute confidence in his abilities, as does the board,” Mr. Iger told analysts on a conference call. “I intend to work very closely with Bob. My goal when I leave here is that he will be just as steeped in the creative part of the business as I am today.”

Mr. Chapek said that he had spent “the last couple weeks” talking with Mr. Iger and the Disney board about becoming chief executive. “I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward,” Mr. Chapek told analysts. “A lot of the heavy lifting has already been done, and now it’s a question of refining that.”

Before joining Disney in 1993, Mr. Chapek worked in brand management at H.J. Heinz and J. Walter Thompson Worldwide. Raised in Hammond, Ind., Mr. Chapek has a degree in microbiology from Indiana University and received his M.B.A. from Michigan State University.

Mr. Chapek first made a name for himself at Disney by spearheading the company’s highly successful “vault” strategy for its iconic animated films, bringing them on and off the market in cycles that allowed Disney to sell the films repeatedly on DVD and Blu-ray discs. He rose to president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios before serving as president of consumer products for four years.

He was named chairman of Disney’s theme park operation in 2015, overseeing 170,000 employees worldwide. He has quietly shined in that role, helping Mr. Iger open the Shanghai Disney Resort; overseeing the construction of two colossal “Star Wars”-themed expansions at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California; and finding numerous smaller ways to make the parks more profitable.

While puzzled by the timing of the announcement, analysts were supportive of the choice.

“Chapek is a really good, no-brainer pick — the other division leaders have been there too short of a time,” Michael Nathanson, a media analyst and founding partner at MoffettNathanson, said in a phone interview. “He’s a really nice person who is part of the Disney culture, which is important.”

Other candidates to succeed Mr. Iger included Kevin A. Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international division, and Peter Rice, chairman of Walt Disney Television.

Mr. Chapek indicated that he hoped to rely on both of those men. “Obviously I have not spent as much time on the media side or the direct-to-consumer side, but we have some really great, experienced leaders that are in place in those businesses,” he said.

Even so, Mr. Chapek said that his years at Disney had given him “a bit of fluency” in those businesses. “I’m familiar with the opportunities and some of the challenges that they all face,” he said.

Since taking over as chief executive in October 2005, Mr. Iger has led Disney to record financial results, even in the face of economic downturns, the occasional horrendous movie write-off and changing consumer habits that dented ESPN, the company’s longtime profit engine. Last year, Mr. Iger completed a $71.3 billion acquisition that gave Disney the bulk of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, substantially altering the entertainment landscape. Mr. Iger then oversaw the successful introduction of Disney Plus.

The downside to that success? Nobody seemed to measure up, complicating succession. One internal candidate to succeed Mr. Iger, the well-regarded Mr. Staggs, abruptly left Disney in 2016 after losing the unqualified support of Mr. Iger and some other board members. Since then, Disney has been engaged in a quiet hunt for a successor.

Even among media conglomerates, Disney has a unique mix of businesses, some of which are healthier than others. The company’s movie studio is widely regarded as the strongest in Hollywood and the Disney theme parks are delivering record profits. But the company’s vast consumer products division has been challenged, and Disney’s television operation, which includes ABC, Disney Channel and Freeform, has been struggling with ratings weakness and a lack of breakout shows. Now it has entered the streaming era with Disney Plus, which has started strong but will lose money for the coming years as Disney spends billions of dollars on original content and technological infrastructure.

Mr. Iger started his entertainment career at ABC in 1974. Disney has no mandatory retirement age for chief executives; the company’s mandatory retirement age for board members is 74.