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Bob Iger steps aside as Disney CEO, hands off to company insider

San Francisco (AFP) - Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday chief Bob Iger was handing off the top executive post after building the media-entertainment powerhouse into the undisputed Hollywood leader.

Disney's board named Bob Chapek, a 27-year veteran of Disney, the new chief executive, effective immediately.

Iger, who has been CEO for more than 15 years, will assume the role of executive chairman and "will direct the company's creative endeavors," a Disney statement said.

The move comes after Iger engineered a blockbuster deal to take over much of the television and film assets of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to become the Hollywood box office leader, and then launched a new direct-to-consumer streaming television service which aims to position Disney against rivals such as Netflix.

"With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of 21st Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO," Iger said in a statement.

Disney, which is the leading force in Hollywood and also has major theme parks and television operations, has been betting heavily on its move to streaming as it takes on rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Disney is intent on bulking up its original streaming content, taking advantage of beloved franchises such as "Star Wars" and the Marvel superhero movies.

Chapek takes the top spot after heading Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

"Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team," Chapek said.

"I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward."

Iger said the new CEO "has proven himself exceptionally qualified," adding: "His success over the past 27 years reflects his visionary leadership and the strong business growth and stellar results he has consistently achieved in his roles at Parks, Consumer Products and the Studio."

In Disney's latest quarterly update, the company announced it had signed up more than 28 million customers for its Disney+ streaming service, getting off to a flying start.

It also reported strong results from its latest "Star Wars" and "Frozen" films.

The company's total global theater box office topped $11 billion dollars, "shattering" a film industry record set by Disney four years ago.

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