Bob Iger Admits Taking the Wrong Position on China Could Hurt Disney

Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger makes his remarks during a gathering a
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger continues to tip-toe around questions concerning China, saying that “caution is imperative” and that taking a position that could harm the company would be “a big mistake.”

Bob Iger made the comments at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

When asked about the situation between China and the NBA, the Disney chief declined to weigh in on the controversy, which erupted this month when the Houston Rockets’ general manager expressed support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

“What we learned in the last week — we’ve learned how complicated this is,” Iger said, according to a report from Bloomberg. “The biggest learning from that is that caution is imperative.”

Iger said, “To take a position that could harm our company in some form would be a big mistake. I just don’t believe it’s something we should engage in in a public manner.”

He added:  “I’m not going to be baited into taking a position at all.”

Disney owns theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and counts on Chinese moviegoers to buy tickets to its Marvel superhero movies, like Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel.

But gaining access to Chinese consumers requires Disney to maintain warm relations with the repressive Communist party in Beijing.

The Disney-owned ESPN came under fire recently when it was reported that network executives forbade its journalists from discussing the China-NBA controversy on air.

Apple has also come under scrutiny for its close ties with China, which is where it manufactures products like the iPhone.

Iger expressed a similar reluctance to talk about China earlier this week during an interview with CNBC in which he called the NBA controversy “a cautionary tale” and said that being “culturally correct” in China is important.

The 68-year-old Iger reportedly told the audience on Tuesday that he still plans to retire from Disney in 2021.

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