The favorite to become Disney’s next CEO is suddenly leaving the company

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Thomas Staggs.
source
Thomson Reuters

Disney’s chief operating officer, Thomas Staggs, will leave the position on May 6, according to a statement on Monday.

He will stay on through the current fiscal year as a special adviser to CEO Bob Iger, the company said.

Staggs was considered the favorite to take over as CEO from Iger when his contract expires in 2018.

Staggs “made important contributions to this company, earning wide respect across the organization for his achievements and personal integrity,” Iger said.

The New York Times first reported on Staggs’ departure.

By leaving Disney, Staggs is shaking up the company right ahead of the unveiling of Shanghai Disneyland, and adding to a history of disruptive transitions at the company, The Times reported.

Staggs was appointed COO last February.

Disney shares fell 1.3% in after-hours trading.

Here’s the full press release:

Thomas O. Staggs will leave his current position as Chief Operating Officer of The Walt Disney Company, effective May 6, 2016. He will remain employed by the company in the role of special advisor to the Chief Executive Officer, Robert A. Iger, through this fiscal year.

“Tom has been a great friend and trusted colleague for more than 20 years,” said Mr. Iger. “He’s made important contributions to this company, earning wide respect across the organization for his achievements and personal integrity. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, immensely grateful for the privilege of working with him, and confident that he will be enormously successful in whatever opportunity he chooses.

Mr. Staggs’ planned departure caps a distinguished 26-year career that began in Strategic Planning. He rose through the ranks to be named Chief Financial Officer, earning praise from Wall Street for his financial and communications skills. Mr. Staggs also led Disney’s Parks & Resorts through an era of historic growth.

Mr. Staggs said, “Disney truly stands alone, not only because of the company’s phenomenal creativity, but also because of the thousands of remarkable people who make it such an extraordinary place. It’s been a privilege to work with them and be inspired by their creativity and commitment. It’s also been a great experience to work with Bob during this dynamic era of unprecedented growth and transformation. I remain grateful for that opportunity, and I’m confident that Disney’s future will be just as exciting as its legendary past.”

With approximately two years left before Mr. Iger steps down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Disney’s Board of Directors will broaden the scope of its succession planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates for consideration.