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Thomas Staggs, heir apparent to Disney's Iger, steps down

Walt Disney shares fell Tuesday, a day after its surprise announcement that Chief Operating Officer Thomas Staggs, who had been seen as Bob Iger's heir apparent, will be leaving.

Staggs will remain employed by Disney as a special advisor to Iger through the company's fiscal year. He will step down from his current role effective May 6. and will leave the company at the end of the fiscal year, Disney said Monday.

Disney said Staggs' departure will broaden the scope of its succession planning process to evaluate a "robust slate of candidates."

Sources told CNBC that Staggs is leaving the company because he didn't receive assurances from the board that he would succeed Iger.

Tom Staggs, COO of The Walt Disney Company
Colin Young-Wolff | Invision for Disney Consumer Products | AP Images
Tom Staggs, COO of The Walt Disney Company

Brett Harriss, media analyst at Gabelli & Co, told CNBC on Tuesday it is possible the board wanted a candidate with more vision and a better ability to navigate content.

"I think they might be concerned that at the end of the day, he's a finance guy, right?" Harriss told CNBC's "Squawk Box," referring to Staggs' 12-year tenure as Disney's chief financial officer. "Sure, he ran the parks, but that's very much an operating role."

Following his tenure as CFO, Staggs ran Disney's amusement parks division from 2010 until his promotion to COO in February 2015. That put him in the lead to succeed Iger.

"There are reports that they were concerned about his ability to handle the creative side of Disney. But again, I kind of wonder if this might be a little bit of a case of familiarity breeds contempt. He's such a known quantity, it was probably easy to pick flaws with him potentially internally," said Doug Creutz, a Cowen & Co. analyst on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report."

The executive who had been seen as Stagg's chief rival for the top position, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, announced last June that he would step down.

Staggs joined Disney in 1990 after working in investment banking at Morgan Stanley & Co.

—CNBC's Julia Boorstin and Tom DiChristopher contributed.