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Disney names PepsiCo’s Hugh Johnston as new CFO amid Bob Iger’s CEO succession search

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Walt Disney Co. named Hugh Johnston as chief financial officer, bringing in an experienced consumer-products leader at a time when it’s seeking a successor to current Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger.

Johnston, 62, currently vice chairman and CFO of PepsiCo Inc., starts on Dec. 4, the company said in a statement on Monday. 

With the hire, Disney gets a seasoned executive with a deep resume who has played key roles in operations and M&A, as well as finance, at one of the world’s best-known brands. Iger, Johnston’s new boss, returned to Disney a year ago after his successor was ousted and has a contract running through 2026.

“Hugh has had a strong track record,” Citigroup analyst Filippo Falorni said in an email. “He has strong operational experience, which could serve the Walt Disney Co. well as CFO and potentially CEO down the line.”

Disney’s former CFO, Christine McCarthy, stepped down in June, taking a medical leave of absence. She was replaced on an interim basis by Kevin Lansberry, the CFO of Disney’s theme parks division, who is returning to the role.

The Burbank, California-based company has been struggling with a migration of viewers away from traditional TV channels and ongoing losses in its streaming services such as Disney+. 

Iger has said he’ll consider divesting traditional channels, like ABC, and is looking for a strategic investor for ESPN, the company’s sports TV business. He has also announced plans to acquire Comcast Corp.’s one-third stake in the Hulu streaming service — a deal that will cost at least $8.61 billion.

Johnston will be paid a base salary of $2 million and a bonus. He’s also getting a one-time signing bonus of $3 million and a stock award of $14 million.

“Hugh’s well-earned reputation as one of the best CFOs in America and his wealth of leadership experience in both financial and operational roles overseeing a diverse portfolio of top global brands make him a perfect addition to Disney’s senior leadership team,” Iger, 72, said in the statement. 

The executive, who first joined Pepsi as a business planner in 1987, has held numerous jobs at the company, including leading its e-commerce division and its Quaker Oats business in North America. 

Succession at Disney has been a fraught process. Numerous potential successors to Iger have left, and the February 2020 appointment of Bob Chapek as CEO ended after two and a half years with his ouster amid acrimony among divisional executives.

Shares of Disney were little changed at $84.79 at midday in New York. The company is scheduled to report quarterly results on Nov. 8. 

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