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“If he was still alive, we would join our companies”: Disney CEO Bob Iger on friendship with Steve Jobs

On September 23, the book The Ride of a Lifetime is published, written by Disney CEO Bob Iger about the lessons he has learned over 15 years as the head of the company. Especially for Vanity Fair, Iger shared an excerpt in which he talks about his friendship and business relationships with the late Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and Pixar shareholder.

Bob Iger recalled that when he first took office, Pixar’s relationship with Disney was not the best. By that time, the companies had managed to release several extremely successful films together, but Steve Jobs and Michael Eisner, the former chairman of Disney, could not find a common language to continue working together.

In January 2004, Steve Jobs openly announced that he would be looking for another partner. Bob Iger, who replaced Eisner in 2005, knew that it would be difficult to reconnect with Pixar, but still decided to try.

To Iger’s surprise, Jobs was not opposed to negotiating with him and both businessmen quickly began to find a common language. At one point, the head of Disney told Apple co-founder and shareholder Pixar about his vision of the future, in which people have access to movies and TV shows directly from their computers or even portable devices.

A few weeks after that, Jobs secretly showed Iiger the first version of the iPod with the ability to not only listen to music, but also play video. Apple had been working on it for a while.

The device’s screen was the size of several postage stamps, but he talked about it as if it were an IMAX movie theater. “It will allow people to watch videos on their iPods, not just listen to music. If it hits the market, will you release your own TV shows on it? ” I immediately replied: “Yes.”

Bob Iger

head of disney

Five months after that conversation, Steve Jobs and Bob Iger at an Apple presentation together announced that five Disney shows would be available for download on iTunes and for viewing on iPad.

After this, the relations of entrepreneurs became even better, and Iger finally got what he thinks was a “crazy” idea: to buy Pixar. The head of Disney believed that if he makes such an offer to Jobs, then this will offend him, but the reaction of Apple co-founder surprised him.

“I was thinking about our future. How do you see Disney buy Pixar? ” I expected that after these words he would hang up or start laughing. The silence before his answer seemed endless, and in the end he said: “You know, this is not the craziest idea in the world.”
Bob Iger

head of disney

Although Steve Jobs had disagreements with Disney in the past, he understood that the deal could benefit both Pixar itself, which has no partners, and Iger’s company – she had already been trying to catch the wave in the animation business for some time.

Ultimately, despite the initial doubts of Disney shareholders, the decision was made – the company will buy Pixar for 7.4 billion dollars. The deal was publicly announced in January 2006, and literally half an hour before this event, an important conversation took place between Jobs and Iger.

Apple co-founder invited the head of Disney to take a walk, and although Iger knew that his friend and colleague loved such moments, he realized that this time there was a special reason – he thought that Jobs wants to change the terms of the deal.

He said: “I will reveal to you what only my wife and doctors know.” He asked that this be kept secret, and then admitted that his cancer was back. “Steve, why are you telling me this now?” I asked, and he replied: “I’m about to become the largest shareholder and chairman of your company, and I think that you have the right, given the above, to refuse the transaction.”

Bob Iger

head of disney

Then Iger did not immediately understand exactly how he should react – within 30 minutes he needed to realize that his friend was close to his death and prepare for the announcement of one of the largest deals in his life.

The head of Disney did not cancel the purchase of Pixar – as he admitted, then he did not know whether he was doing the right thing, but he understood that the preparation for the deal was too difficult to cross out all the work at once.

After the announcement of the purchase, Pixar Iger did not celebrate – instead, he went to his wife Willow Bay, who had known Jobs even longer, and cried along with news from a friend, although he tried to calm them down.

When Pixar became part of Disney, Iger often turned to Jobs for advice before making an important decision. So it was before the purchase of Marvel, which became perhaps the main acquisition of the company.

He stated that he had never read comics in his life and said that he hated them even more than video games. I brought him the Marvel characters encyclopedia and explained the universe to him so that he knew what we were going to buy. He looked at all this for about ten seconds, threw it aside and said: “Is it so important for you? Do you really want it? Is this another Pixar? ”

Bob Iger

head of disney

According to Iger, by that time he and Jobs were so good friends that they could calmly criticize each other. Neither one took it too much to heart.

Jobs nevertheless trusted Iger and helped him make a deal with Marvel, talking with Ike Perlmutter, one of its shareholders, and assuring him of the intentions of the head of Disney. Later, after purchasing the company, Perlmutter admitted to Iiger that Steve Jobs’ call played an important role and helped him get rid of doubts about the feasibility of this transaction.

Iger noted that now that Steve Jobs is no more, with every new Disney success, he regrets that his friend does not see this.

If Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least seriously discussed the possibility of this.

Bob Iger

head of disney

In the summer of 2011, a couple of months before his death, Steve Jobs and his wife came to dinner with Iger and his wife. His cancer was already in its late stages.

He had little energy and his voice was quiet, but he still wanted to spend that evening with us. In particular, to mark what we did several years ago. We sat in the room, raised glasses of wine before dinner, and he said: “Take a look at what we have achieved. We saved two companies. ” All four of us then wept.

Bob Iger

head of disney

In October of that year, already at the Steve Jobs funeral, his wife Lauren Powell Jobs told Bob Iger his side of the day when her husband informed his friend about his incurable disease.

“I then asked him if we could believe you, and he answered:“ I love this guy. ” It was mutual.

Bob Iger

head of disney

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