The Walt Disney Co. has found its next CFO.
The entertainment giant has named Hugh Johnston as its senior executive VP and CFO, the top financial role in the company, and a critical deputy to CEO Bob Iger.
Johnston, currently the vice chairman and CFO of food and beverage giant PepsiCo, effectively succeeds Christine McCarthy, who stepped down earlier this year. He starts Dec. 4 and will relocate from New York to California.
Kevin Lansberry had been serving as interim CFO after her departure, and will return to his previous role as CFO of Disney’s parks, products and experiences division.
Johnston first joined PepsiCo in 1987, and has served in a variety of roles since, including executive VP of operations, president of PepsiCo’s North American division, and senior VP of transformation.
Johnston joins Disney at a pivotal moment for the company, as it seeks to undergo a radical transformation under Iger.
Among other things, the company is now committed to buying the remaining stake in Hulu from Comcast, and is facing a possible proxy battle with the activist investor Nelson Peltz (PepsiCo, as it happens, had its own run-in with Peltz in 2014 and 2015).
Iger, after cutting thousands of jobs and pushing Disney’s streaming business toward profitability, has ben weighing what to do with Disney’s linear TV businesses, including ABC, ESPN and the Disney cable channels.
With the company set to report earnings this week, some sort of strategic update is expected.
“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,” said Iger in a statement. “His expertise will serve Disney and its shareholders well as we continue the transformative work we are doing to drive growth and value creation.
“I would also like to extend my sincere gratitude to Kevin Lansberry, who stepped into the CFO role on an interim basis earlier this year,” Iger said. “Kevin has provided steady leadership and invaluable counsel to our executive management team, and he will continue to be one of our company’s most important financial leaders as he returns to his role as CFO of our Disney Experiences segment.”
“Disney is such a storied company, with the most beloved brands in the world and a strong financial foundation to support the company of the future that Bob and his team are building,” Johnston added. “Very few companies have withstood the test of time that Disney has, making the company as rare as it is special. I share Bob’s enthusiasm for Disney’s future, and I am incredibly excited to join this management team in this moment of opportunity and possibility.”
According to a copy of Johnston’s contract, he will receive a base salary of $2 million, a $4 million annual target bonus, an $11.5 million annual LTIP grant, a one-time long-term stock award of $14 million, and a $3 million signing bonus.
Johnston, with his C-level leadership and operational experience at a consumer-focused company that’s larger than Disney, is also sure to raise questions about whether he might be in the mix as a possible successor to Iger.