Disney Taps Nike Vet Mark Parker as New Chairman

The Walt Disney Co. has appointed former Nike CEO Mark Parker as its new chairman of the board, effective following the company’s annual meeting of shareholders. He will succeed Susan Arnold, who has come to the end of her 15-year term limit.

Parker served as the CEO, chairman and president of Nike Inc. for 14 years before he stepped down from his role in early 2020 and stayed on at the Swoosh as executive chairman. John Donahoe succeeded Parker as CEO. Nike confirmed that Parker will remain on board as executive chairman.

“Mark Parker’s vision, incredible depth of experience and wise counsel have been invaluable to Disney, and I look forward to continuing working with him in his new role, along with our other directors, as we chart the future course for this amazing company,” said Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger in a statement.

Disney also said it rejects activist investor Nelson Peltz’s efforts to join the board and recommends shareholders vote for the company’s board nominees at its upcoming annual meeting of shareholders. Peltz’s Trian Fund Management in November purchased a more than $800 million stake in Disney and expressed a goal to receive a seat on the board and make certain operational changes.

In addition to his executive chairman role at Nike, Parker has also served as a director at Walt Disney since 2016. In his new role, Parker will also chair a newly formed committee meant to advise the board on planning for a CEO transition, which includes reviewing candidates for the role.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Disney’s Chairman, and I look forward to working closely with Bob and his management team on a strategy of growth that balances investment with profitability, while preserving Disney’s core mission of creative excellence, to deliver shareholder value,” Parker said in a statement. “At the same time, it is the top priority of mine and the Board’s to identify and prepare a successful CEO successor, and that process has already begun.”

Parker left the CEO role at Nike during a time of upheaval for the sportswear brand. Parker took heat for his connection to Nike Oregon Project head coach Alberto Salazar, who was handed a four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Association in 2019.

And in 2018, Nike faced internal upheaval with the highly publicized departure of brand president Trevor Edwards, who was reportedly next in line to succeed Parker. That news preceded several unexpected and high-profile exits as well as multiple reports describing allegations of harassment and a toxic workplace environment, which is currently the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against Nike.

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