By Tom Huddleston Jr.
March 23, 2017

Bob Iger will have to postpone his retirement party until 2019.

The Walt Disney chairman and CEO will stay in that role for a year longer than was previously planned after the company’s board of directors said on Thursday that it has extended Iger’s contract through July 2019. Iger, who took over as Disney’s CEO in 2005, had previously been set to step down in the summer of 2018 and the company has been actively searching for his heir apparent.

In a statement, Iger said it has been “a tremendous privilege” to lead Disney for more than a decade. “Even with the incredible success the Company has achieved, I am confident that Disney’s best days are still ahead, and I look forward to continuing to build on our proven strategy for growth while working with the Board to identify a successor as CEO and ensure a successful transition,” Iger said.

The move, which follows more than a month of rumors that Iger’s contract would be extended, actually marks the third postponement of Iger’s retirement date by Disney’s board.

The entertainment giant has struggled to find an acceptable successor to take over the reins at Disney after what has been a massively successful 12-year run at the helm for Iger. It was reported in February that Disney’s board was considering the contract extension for Iger in order to give the CEO time to train his eventual replacement. (Stepping down at Disney would also free up Iger for other pursuits, with the CEO even rumored as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.)

Disney’s former Chief Operating Officer, Tom Staggs, had long been considered the most obvious choice to succeed Iger when the time came, but Staggs’ departure last year led to rampant speculation over who would eventually get Disney’s top job. During last month’s Disney earnings call, Iger expressed confidence that his successor will be “chosen on a timely basis and chosen well.”

Orin Smith, the independent lead director of Disney’s board, pointed to Disney’s “unprecedented success” under Iger in his own statement announcing the latest extension. “Given Bob Iger’s outstanding leadership, his record of success in a changing media landscape, and his clear strategic vision for Disney’s future, it is obvious that the company and its shareholders will be best served by his continued leadership as the board conducts the robust process of identifying a successor and ensuring a smooth transition,” Smith said.

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After taking over as CEO from Michael Eisner in 2005, Iger’s tenure at the head of the company has been marked by a string of successful acquisitions that bolstered Disney’s movie business, including purchases of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm. Thanks to the huge contributions from each of those units, Disney set a Hollywood record in 2016 for annual global box office sales ($7 billion).

Iger also oversaw the development and launch of Shanghai Disneyland, the $5.5 billion Chinese theme park and resort that opened last summer. Disney has produced six consecutive years of record earnings under Iger, who received $43.9 million in compensation in 2016.

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