Disney going forward with hiring freeze, CEO Iger says in town hall – Orlando Sentinel



The Walt Disney Co. still plans to go forward with plans for a hiring freeze announced by former CEO Bob Chapek shortly before he was ousted from the company last week, current CEO Bob Iger said Monday.

Iger confirmed the decision in response to a question from a Disney employee during a private, employee-only town hall meeting Monday afternoon, according to reports from news outlets that included CNBC. It was his first such meeting with workers after Iger was reinstated as Disney’s CEO in an abrupt announcement on Nov. 20.

Chapek sent a memo to Disney division executives on Nov. 11 outlining plans to reduce Disney’s workforce as part of cost-cutting initiatives across the company, saying layoffs and a hiring freeze were imminent. He did not say where the layoffs were expected to take place but said the “targeted hiring freeze” would affect all but “the most critical, business-driving positions.”

At the time, union president Eric Clinton of Unite Here Local 362 said he had not heard anything from Walt Disney World about the workforce changes and said it was unlikely they would affect the Orlando theme park soon. The union he leads represents workers in positions that include attractions, custodial and vacation planning.

Disney employs about 190,000 people across its entertainment and theme parks divisions, around 70,000 of which work in Orlando.

Disney’s board of directors booted Chapek from the company last week in a move analysts said was expected given his recent perceived missteps within the company, including a political feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year over the so-called “don’t say gay” bill and a failure to mitigate significant losses in Disney’s streaming services in recent quarters.

During Monday’s meeting, Iger also reportedly addressed the controversy over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms up to the third grade and limits it as “age-appropriate” for older students. Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Chapek received criticism from Florida politicians and Disney employees and fans for failing to initially decry the legislation in March. He later said the company opposed the measure, the day after it passed the Legislature, and formally apologized for employees for his silence.

On Monday, Iger said Disney’s core storytelling values include “inclusion, and acceptance and tolerance” and the company is “certainly not going to lessen [its] core values in order to make everyone happy all the time,” Variety reported.

His remarks are similar to those made by Chapek late last month at a Wall Street Journal conference. Defending Disney from critics calling the company “too woke,” Chapek said, “we want to use Disney to bring people together, and I think we’ll do that by diverse stories and diverse characters.”

Iger also dismissed rumors of Disney brokering a merger or deal with Apple during the Monday town hall, calling them “pure speculation,” according to Variety.

krice@orlandosentinel.com and @katievrice on Twitter



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