LOS ANGELES -- Tom Staggs, the presumed front-runner to replace Bob Iger as CEO of The Walt Disney Co., is leaving the company next month.
The surprise announcement Monday means Disney will have to look further for Iger's successor after he steps down in June 2018, a date the popular chief executive has extended twice.
Staggs, a 26-year Disney veteran and its chief operating officer, had been assumed to be on track for the top job after the next leading candidate, Jay Rasulo, resigned last June as chief financial officer.
Staggs was promoted to COO in February 2015, a promotion taken as a sign that he had won the internal competition to eventually take the Disney reins.
Disney said in a statement Monday that it would "broaden" its search for CEO candidates.
Top executives will go back to reporting to Iger.
Staggs, 55, had been CFO for 12 years since 1998, playing a critical role as Disney made huge acquisitions to bolster its movie studio, including the $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006 and $4.1 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009.