For the first time in their 98-year history, Disney has elected a female as new chairman of the company. Susan Arnold, who has been a Disney board member for 14 years, will succeed Bob Iger at the end of this year.
Arnold was formerly an executive at global investment firm Carlyle. Mr Iger, who stepped down as Disney’s chief executive in 2020 after 15 years in the role, will leave the company by the end of this month.
“As I step into this new role as chairman of the board, I look forward to continuing to serve the long-term interests of Disney’s shareholders and working closely with CEO Bob Chapek as he builds upon the company’s century-long legacy of creative excellence and innovation,” Ms Arnold said in a statement.
Arnold has also served in senior roles at some of America’s biggest companies.
For the last eight years she has been an executive at Carlyle Group, having previously held roles at consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble and fast food chain McDonald’s.
“Susan is an incredibly esteemed executive whose wealth of experience, unwavering integrity, and expert judgment have been invaluable to the company since she first joined the Board in 2007,” Mr Iger said.
Her appointment comes as large companies are moving away from management structures where the chief executive and chairperson roles are held by the same person after pressure from corporate governance experts, investors and, in some cases, regulators to separate the two key positions.
Mr Iger’s exit marks the end of an era for Disney, who has been in a senior role at the company since 1996.
In his time as chief executive Disney made a number of major acquisitions, including the takeovers of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. In 2016, the firm opened its first theme park and resort in mainland China.
Several other Disney executives have announced plans to leave by the end of this year, including studios head Alan Horn, president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television Gary Marsh and company general counsel Alan Braverman.