Disney’s Iger Gets Extension Through 2016 — And Promotion To Chairman

While most of the attention has been on succession plans at Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), the other company where Steve Jobs had a major presence has been dealing with its own. Disney (NYSE: DIS) has extended CEO Bob Iger’s contract through 2016 and announced plans for him to become chairman in March when John Pepper, Jr. retires. Iger, who has been CEO since 2005, would step aside, shifting to executive chairman in 2015 when his yet-to-be-named successor takes over.

Jobs acquired 7.4 percent of Disney’s stock when he sold Pixar in a $7.4 billion all-stock deal, becoming its largest single shareholder and a member of the board. (He was not a regular attendee at board meetings under the best of circumstances.) It is not clear if someone will get “his” seat — his widow Laurene Powell Jobs, for instance. The Pixar acquisition is one of the highlights of Iger’s tenure at the company.

But with Pepper leaving as chairman, the board will select a lead independent director when Iger succeeds him. Existing Disney board members include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who would make an interesting choice.

Iger’s current contract was set to expire Jan. 31, 2013. The extension avoids the “will he-won’t he” drama and sets the company up for an orderly succession. It also provides enough time to bring in a successor from the outside and prep him or her — or to move up someone internally who doesn’t have wide exposure to the overall operations.

And it gives Iger just over a decade of influence at the top of Disney.

As for the timing, which might strike some as curious, the Disney board met as scheduled Wednesday and Thursday. Jobs’ death was announced late Wednesday afternoon.