Walt Disney Co. Appoints Hugh Johnston, a PepsiCo Veteran, as CFO

Disney Stock

The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) has announced the appointment of Hugh Johnston, a 34-year veteran of PepsiCo, as its new chief financial officer. Johnston, who has held the position of CFO at PepsiCo since 2010, will take over from Kevin Lansberry, effective December 4. Lansberry had been serving as Disney’s interim CFO earlier this year.

Johnston’s professional journey includes a variety of roles at PepsiCo since he began his career there in 1987. He briefly left to serve as the CFO at Merck & Co. from 1999 to 2002 but later returned to the snack and beverage giant based in Purchase, New York.

In addition to his responsibilities at PepsiCo, Johnston also sits on the boards of both Microsoft and HCA Healthcare. His extensive experience in both financial and operational leadership roles across a diverse portfolio of global brands has earned him a well-deserved reputation as one of the best CFOs in the United States.

Hugh Johnston will report directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who returned to lead the Burbank, California-based entertainment giant less than a year ago. Iger expressed his confidence in Johnston’s abilities, stating, “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.”

As this news was announced, Disney’s shares saw minimal change, trading at $85.27 in the morning.

Bob Iger’s return to Disney in November of the previous year marked the replacement of his previously chosen successor, CEO Bob Chapek. Chapek’s two-year tenure was characterized by internal conflicts, missteps, and a decline in financial performance, making it one of the company’s most challenging periods. His term began during the COVID-19 pandemic and ended amid rising inflation concerns.

Disney also found itself in a public dispute with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The company operates the massive Walt Disney World theme park resort in Florida, and DeSantis had implemented a measure known as the “don’t say gay” law, which prohibited teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools up to the third grade. Chapek initially remained silent on the matter, which led to an employee backlash. When he eventually criticized the law, it triggered a political backlash, with conservative lawmakers and media outlets accusing Disney of being too “woke.”

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