It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine The Walt Disney Company merging with Apple. Now, thanks to an excerpt from Disney CEO Bob Iger’s book The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, it appears that there was more than just imagination to that idea.
The excerpt was released to Vanity Fair and covers the relationship that Bob Iger had with Apple’s Steve Jobs. Iger is quoted as saying, “if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously.”
Iger and Jobs got to know each other after Iger became CEO of Disney. The relationship between Disney and Jobs had frayed at this point. Disney had been releasing Pixar movies but that deal was set to expire. It was well known that Jobs and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner were not on good terms. When Iger became the CEO he set about to fix that relationship. What resulted was Disney purchasing Pixar and a relationship blossomed between Iger and Jobs.
The relationship began when Iger reached out to Jobs about the future of TV and how it would be watched. This led to a deal where Disney content would be shown on iTunes.
“The ease and the speed with which we got the deal done, combined with the fact that it showed an admiration for Apple and its products, blew Steve’s mind,” Iger wrote. “He told me he’d never met anyone in the entertainment business who was willing to try something that might disrupt his own company’s business model.”
The TV deal led to Bob Iger pursuing the purchase of Pixar. This ended up happening in 2006. The goal was to reinvigorate Disney Animation with Pixar’s successes and leadership. With the $7.4 billion purchase, Pixar became part of The Walt Disney Company and Steve Jobs joined the Disney board of directors. Right before the announcement of the Pixar deal, Steve Jobs revealed to Bob Iger that he had cancer. He also gave Iger the opportunity to back out of the deal if he felt it necessary. This didn’t happen.
Steve Jobs would continue the partnership and friendship with Bob Iger for several more years until he passed away in 2011. In his book, Bob Iger shares about a moment he had with Steve Jobs’ widow just moments after his funeral.
“We were standing there with Steve’s grave behind us, and Laurene, who’d just buried her husband, gave me a gift that I’ve thought about nearly every day since. I’ve certainly thought of Steve every day. ‘I asked him if we could trust you,’ Laurene said. And Steve said, ‘I love that guy.’ The feeling was mutual,” Iger wrote.
The partnership continued past Steve Jobs’ death. In fact, Bob Iger’s connection with Apple ended just last week when he resigned from Apple’s board of directors. With Apple TV+ and Disney+ both arriving in November, Iger is stepping down to avoid any conflict of interests between the two now rivals in the streaming space.
Bob Iger’s book, The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, will be available on September 23, 2019, where books are sold.