In a surprise move, The Walt Disney Company has announced that Robert Iger is returning to lead the company as chief executive, effective immediately, replacing Bob Chapek. Bob Iger has been brought back for two years, with a mandate to set the strategic direction for renewed growth and to develop a successor to lead the company.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Susan Arnold, chair of board. “The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period.”

“Iger has the deep respect of Disney’s senior leadership team, most of whom he worked closely with until his departure as executive chairman 11 months ago, and he is greatly admired by Disney employees worldwide—all of which will allow for a seamless transition of leadership.”

Bob Iger spent more than four decades at Disney and was chief executive from 2005 to 2020 and remained executive chairman until December 2021.

“I am extremely optimistic for the future of this great company and thrilled to be asked by the Board to return as its CEO,” he said. “I am deeply honoured to be asked to again lead this remarkable team, with a clear mission focused on creative excellence to inspire generations through unrivalled, bold storytelling.”

In a note to staff, Bob Iger said he was returning as chief executive “with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement.”

Disney has bet the business on a digital direct to consumer strategy. While it has gained a total of 235 million subscriptions across Disney+, ESPN and Hulu, its online losses have grown to nearly $1.5 billion in the most recent quarter.

The company recently announced a freeze on hiring and all non-essential travel in a bid to save costs. The market value of Disney was $260 billion in January 2020 and has fallen to $167 billion.