Disney CEO Bob Iger Denies ABC, Cable Networks, and ESPN Are For Sale





Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger backtracked on his prior suggestion that some assets, whether it’s ESPN or its ABC network, might be for sale, saying that was “not the case.”

“I did not think everyone would run with a story that everything is being sold, which is not the case,” Iger told Disney employees at a virtual town hall in New York on Tuesday, as reported by the New York Post, among several other outlets.

The comments were a reference to an interview with CNBC in July, in which he talked about how some of its networks weren’t core Disney, and hinted at a strategic partner for ESPN.

The comments on Tuesday represent damage control as Iger, who rejoined the company a little more than a year ago, attempts to put out multiple fires at once. His CNBC interview kicked off speculation of potential deals, with Allen Media Group, which owns Local Now, several local broadcasters, and The Weather Channel, to make an unsolicited bid for the ABC Network and its cable channels. At the same time, he continues to deal with losses in the company’s streaming services, as well as the recent string of box office disappointments, from The Marvels to last weekend’s Wish. Lastly, he faces mounting pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is also looking for more dramatic improvement.

The town hall, which took place exactly one year after his last one, was infused with optimism despite the “myriad of challenges,” and said it didn’t second-guess his decision to return, according to Variety.

“I talk about optimism being an extraordinarily important trait of a leader, because no one wants to follow a pessimist,” he said, according Variety. “But I also believe that hopeless optimism doesn’t do anybody any good.”

A spokesman for Disney wasn’t immediately available to confirm the comments, which appears in multiple outlets.

Iger addressed the issue of Disney’s box office failures, noting that “quantity can destroy quality,” a nod to the flood of Marvel projects that have flooded theaters and its Disney+ service, which some, like Secret Invasion, earning scathing reviews.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro also joined Iger during the talk, and reiterated the goal of launching a standalone streaming ESPN service by 2025, according to Variety.

Iger said that Pitaro and Dana Walden, co-head of the entertainment division, which includes its TV and cable businesses, have worked to make their businesses more efficient, and reiterated they were “imperative to the health of the business,” Variety reported.

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