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Disney extends CEO Bob Iger’s contract through 2021

Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it has extended the contract of Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger through December 2021, locking in a 16-year run leading the Burbank entertainment juggernaut.

The move, which had been expected, came as Disney announced its $52.4-billion deal to buy much of 21st Century Fox’s media assets. It appears to rule out a presidential bid by Iger — at least for 2020 — which some observers had been anticipating.

Terms of his contract extension were not immediately available. In fiscal 2016, Iger’s total compensation was $43.9 million.

Disney said Iger was staying “at the request of both 21st Century Fox and the Disney board of directors.”

“When considering this strategic acquisition, it was important to the Board that Bob remain as chairman and CEO through 2021 to provide the vision and proven leadership required to successfully complete and integrate such a massive, complex undertaking,” said Orin C. Smith, lead independent director of the Disney board.

“We share the belief of our counterparts at 21st Century Fox that extending his tenure is in the best interests of our company and our shareholders, and will be critical to Disney’s ability to effectively drive long-term value from this extraordinary acquisition,” Smith said.

As proposed, the blockbuster deal between Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox entertainment empire would reshape Hollywood and eliminate one of its six major movie studios.

If regulators approve it, the Burbank behemoth would take over the prolific 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, Fox’s 22 regional sports channels, cable entertainment brands FX and National Geographic, and Fox’s portfolio of international operations, including a fast-growing pay-TV service in India.

Iger, the company’s chief executive since 2005, had been set to vacate his post at the end of June 2016, but in 2014 his contract was extended two years. In March, it was extended again — through July 2, 2019 — to give Disney more time to search for a successor.

The multiple extensions prompted Iger to joke in early October at a Vanity Fair media conference in Beverly Hills: “This time I mean it.”

Few internal candidates for the post have emerged and it seemed increasingly likely the company would look for an outside candidate. The Fox deal, which will take an estimated 18 months to complete, could introduce a new pool of potential candidates for the top job, perhaps even James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s ambitious younger son. However, Disney has not offered Murdoch a place in its empire yet.

Any candidate would have big shoes to fill.

Iger has already orchestrated three multibillion-dollar acquisitions that have transformed Disney, not including Fox: Pixar Animation Studios in 2006, Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Those deals have provided the company with lucrative franchises such as “Star Wars” and “The Avengers.”

meg.james@latimes.com

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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An earlier version of this article stated that with a contract extension, Bob Iger locked in a 26-year run leading Walt Disney Co. The extension would bring Iger to a 16-year run.

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