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When Bob Iger came out of retirement to return as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, many people assumed big changes would come to the company. One financial analyst thinks one of those changes will be spinning-off ESPN into its own company.
An equity research report from Wells Fargo states that they “think [Iger] and his key reports are focused on content and cost rationalization… With linear and sports trends diverging from core IP, we think severing [ESPN] is increasingly logical.”
This is an idea that has been around for years. Even back to my days working at ESPN, there have always been rumblings that Disney might spin-off ESPN into its own company or even sell it to the highest bidder.
Bob Iger has had opportunities to make the move in the past, but he hasn’t pulled the trigger. A big reason for that, I believe, is that he truly loves ESPN.
Bob Iger is a massive sports fan
Bob Iger has always wanted to own a professional sports team. When the Chargers and Raiders were discussing potential returns to Los Angeles in 2015, Iger was involved.
In 2021, Suns owner Robert Sarver came under fire for a toxic workplace culture. With that report, came talks of selling the team. And with those talks came Bob Iger’s name, once again.
And earlier this year, a group made a bid to buy Chelsea FC, an English soccer club. Guess who was part of the group? That’s right, Bob Iger.
All of the moves ESPN has made over the years to bolster its sports portfolio have come because Iger was willing to sink Disney money into the company.
The SEC Network, the ACC Network, the expanded College Football Playoff, the massive digital center that now sits on the ESPN campus — all products of the Iger regime.
I think Iger views ESPN as his version of owning a team. If he were to cede control by spinning it off into its own company it would represent a shift in his thinking from the past.
It might be in Disney’s best interest to make that move, at least financially. But Iger has the ultimate say.
Does he choose money?
Or does he choose love?
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ