Three under-the-radar contenders to be the next Disney CEO

While there’s been quite a bit of talk about internal candidates, ranging from the current CFO to division chairs, replacing Bob Iger as the next Disney CEO, a number of individuals outside the Mouse House have shown considerable cred to be considered for the position. The perfect candidate should have an understanding of both studio and theme park/attractions operations, and although it’s unknown whether these three have been approached by Disney or have considered throwing their hats into the ring, they’re among our favorites and all highly qualified for the job.

Pam Lifford

Pam Lifford opens the WB Hotel on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, adjacent to the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park

Current position: President, Warner Bros. Global Brands and Experiences

Theme park/attractions experience: Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Burbank, sold-out pop-up experiences themed to Friends and The Office

Studio experience: Global branding and consumer engagement of Warner Bros. properties (including DC Comics) across all mediums

Disney connection: 2000-2012 Executive Vice President/General Manager Global Fashion/Home/Infant for Disney Consumer Products

Paul Baribault

Paul Baribault with famed environmental activist Jane Goodall

Current position: President and CEO, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Theme park/attractions experience: Oversees two of the world’s highest attended zoo campuses – San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Studio experience: 1997-2019 Coordinator to Vice President, Walt Disney Studios. Led marketing campaigns for early Disney IMAX releases, Disney Animations Studios, Pixar, and The Muppets

Disney connection: Former Vice President and General Manager of Disneynature. Led promotional and marketing campaigns for Anaheim Angels. Developed business plan for El Capitan Theatre.

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson and husband George Lucas break ground on the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Current position: Co-CEO and President, Ariel Investments

Theme park/attractions experience: As of December 2022, Ariel Investments had a 3% stake in Madison Square Gardens, which is building the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas for an estimated cost of US$2.17 billion. Co-founder and board member of the US$1 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, scheduled to open in 2025 in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park

Studio experience: As chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation, negotiated the company’s sale to Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal for US$3.8 billion.

Disney Connection: Formerly, a financial content contributor to ABC News, particularly Good Morning America. Married to Lucasfilm founder and Star Wars/Indiana Jones creator George Lucas

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