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Disney elects female chairman for first time in 98-year history

Susan Arnold has served on Disney's board for 14 years

By Charlotte Krol

Susan Arnold pictured in a portrait photo taken in 2014
Susan Arnold. (Picture: Wikimedia commons/Cknabley)

Walt Disney has elected a woman to become its chairman for the first time in its 98-year history.

Susan Arnold is set to take over from Bob Iger at the end of 2021. She has been a member of the board for 14 years.

As the BBC reports, Arnold was formerly an executive at global investment firm Carlyle and in previous roles worked for consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble as well as McDonald’s.

Arnold’s appointment comes as large companies move away from management structures where the chief executive and chairperson roles are held by the same person. Corporate governance experts, investors and regulators had put pressure on the need to separate the two key positions.

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 December.

“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,” Iger said.

Arnold added in a statement: “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.”

Iger, who has been in a senior role at the company since 1996, oversaw major developments at Disney during his tenure. These include several of Disney’s major acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. In 2016 the company 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 studio head Alan Horn, president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television Gary Marsh, and company general counsel Alan Braverman.

In other Disney news, Peter Jackson has revealed that he managed to convince the company to allow swearing in his new documentary ‘The Beatles: Get Back’.

The three-part film, which landed recently on Disney+, focuses on the making of The Beatles‘ final album ‘Let It Be’ and also showcases their iconic 1969 rooftop concert at London’s Savile Row in full, their last ever public concert.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Jackson said: “We’ve had to have a discussion with Disney about the swearing.

The Beatles are scouse boys and they freely swear but not in an aggressive or sexual way. We got Disney to agree to have swearing, which I think is the first time for a Disney channel.”