| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Walt Disney Co's board on Monday extended Bob Iger's tenure as its chief executive by 15 months, allowing him to remain both CEO and chairman of the media giant through June 30, 2016.
Iger, 62, had planned to step down as CEO on April 1, 2015, and assume the single role as executive chairman through the end of his existing contract on June 30, 2016, the company said in a statement.
Since taking over as CEO in 2005, Iger has overseen acquisitions of film studios Pixar and Marvel, two hit makers for Disney, as well as last year's purchase of "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm. The company also invested in theme parks and expanded the Disney brand into international markets.
Disney has delivered a total shareholder return of 193 percent during Iger's tenure, exceeding the 54 percent from the S&P 500, Orin Smith, Disney's independent lead director, said in a statement.
The board asked Iger to extend his term as CEO, Smith said, "given his outstanding leadership, and to provide continuity of Disney's corporate strategy."
Keeping Iger in both jobs through June 2016 gives the Disney board more time to choose his successor and ensure a smooth transition, Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said. Disney suffered through a bruising battle when Iger's predecessor, Michael Eisner, was forced out of the company.
Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo and Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs are considered leading candidates to replace Iger as CEO, Wall Street analysts say.
"It certainly makes sense not to fumble around with that role," Harrigan said. "I think you'd like to give it a couple more years to play out."
The culmination of many of Iger's biggest projects will come in 2015, when Disney's $3.7 billion Shanghai theme park is scheduled to open. Also that year, Disney will release a new "Star Wars" movie and a sequel to last year's blockbuster Marvel film "The Avengers."
Iger's existing compensation terms remain in place, Disney said.
Disney shares rose 1.2 percent to close at $63.93 on the New York Stock earlier on Monday before the news of Iger's extended CEO contract.
(Reporting by Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Gary Hill, Bernard Orr)