Disney CEO Bob Chapek has emphasized his company’s commitment to ESPN and sports betting in general. In an interview at Disney’s D23 event in Anaheim, Chapek said sports betting is what the company’s younger audience wants “as part of their sports lifestyle.”
During this interview, Chapek reiterated his faith in ESPN and rejected calls to spin off the business from the Disney franchise. These calls have come amid backlash from many quarters, including hedge fund Third Point founder Dan Leob, whom Chapek described as an “activist investor.”
Chapek said that Disney was working very hard on developing an ESPN sports betting app, and described the sports broadcaster as an essential asset to the Walt Disney Company.
This follows weeks of rumors saying Disney plans to sell ESPN, and Chapek confirmed it had received numerous inquiries from prospective buyers. He believes ESPN is in a unique position and that Disney has a firm vision for it that is intrinsic to its status within the sports betting industry.
Chapek took to Twitter to write: “We have a better understanding of @espn’s potential as a standalone business and another vertical for $DIS to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues.”
Loeb responded to the interview by appearing to step back from his previous stance. This is reflected in Third Point repurchasing a stake of roughly $1bn in Disney last month, along with Loeb saying he looked forward to seeing what lies in store for ESPN and its chairman James Pitaro.
Loeb commented: “We look forward to seeing Mr Pitaro execute on the growth and innovation plans, generating considerable synergies as part of the Walt Disney Company.”