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Disney’s Iger Is Now in a Rare Role: Executive Chairman

Position is set to become more common at U.S. corporations as baby boom CEOs near retirement, consultants say


The Wall Street Journal | February 27, 2020




The Wall Street Journal article, "Disney’s Iger Is Now in a Rare Role: Executive Chairman," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Anthony Abbatiello on the balance required when the CEO and executive chairman roles are separated. The article is excerpted below.

Robert Iger, the longtime head of Walt Disney Co., stepped aside as CEO this week. But he’s not really gone: Mr. Iger has taken on the relatively rare role of executive chairman.

Major corporations are increasingly splitting the positions of chairman and chief executive. Today, more than half the companies in the S&P 500 use such a structure, according to proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, up from just 35% in 2009.

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Executive chairmen, unlike their independent counterparts, are often engaged in the day-to-day operations of a business. How deeply they are involved and the authority they wield can vary from company to company.

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Such arrangements work when an executive chairman cedes enough control to give the new CEO autonomy, while remaining present as a sounding board, says Anthony Abbatiello, who heads the leadership and succession-planning practice at Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive-search firm. Transitions can crumble if the newly installed chairman insists on micromanaging operations, he said.

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Disney’s Iger Is Now in a Rare Role: Executive Chairman