COO Staggs Leaving Post at Walt Disney

In a surprising move, COO Tom Staggs, seen as heir apparent to CEO Bob Iger, will be leaving the Walt Disney Co., the company announced Monday.

Staggs will give up his current position effective May 6 and will serve as a special advisor to Iger till the end of the fiscal year.

With approximately two years left before Iger steps down as chairman and CEO, Disney’s Board of Directors will broaden the scope of its succession planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates for consideration, the company said.

Disney has had a history of short-lived No. 2s, but the decision to make Staggs COO last year appeared to put Disney in a good position in terms of succession.

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“Tom has been a great friend and trusted colleague for more than 20 years,” said Iger in a statement. “He’s made important contributions to this company, earning wide respect across the organization for his achievements and personal integrity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, immensely grateful for the privilege of working with him, and confident that he will be enormously successful in whatever opportunity he chooses.”

Staggs has been with Disney for 26 years. He was running the company’s parks division when he appeared to win a competition to succeed Iger over CFO Jay Rasulo.

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“Disney truly stands alone, not only because of the company’s phenomenal creativity, but also because of the thousands of remarkable people who make it such an extraordinary place,” Staggs said in a statement. “It’s been a privilege to work with them and be inspired by their creativity and commitment. It’s also been a great experience to work with Bob during this dynamic era of unprecedented growth and transformation. I remain grateful for that opportunity, and I’m confident that Disney’s future will be just as exciting as its legendary past.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.