Disney to “broaden the scope” of succession planning as its COO departs

Thomas Staggs, chief operating officer at The Walt Disney Corporation, is stepping down. Staggs is widely seen as the successor to CEO Bob Iger, so this makes the entertainment giant’s plans after Iger’s departure seem a lot less certain.

Staggs has been at Disney for 26 years, and he was recently promoted from leading the company’s theme park division to COO, a move that cemented the perception that he was the heir apparent. His departure is takes effect on May 6, although he will remain on-board as a “special advisor” through the end of the fiscal year.

In a statement, Iger said:

Tom has been a great friend and trusted colleague for more than 20 years. He’s made important contributions to this company, earning wide respect across the organization for his achievements and personal integrity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, immensely grateful for the privilege of working with him, and confident that he will be enormously successful in whatever opportunity he chooses.

The company also said that its board of directors “will broaden the scope of its succession planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates for consideration.” Iger is expected to leave Disney after his current contract ends in 2018.

While we’re speculating about Disney’s future, it’s also worth noting that the company has been increasingly (though not solely) positioning itself as a tech company, with tech executives including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen on its board.

The news about Staggs’ departure was first reported in The New York Times.