In this era of mega media mergers, Apple and Disney could have been one of them. That’s what Bob Iger believes could have happened if Steve Jobs were still alive.
Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Iger’s new autobiography, titled “The Ride of A Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney (DIS) Company,” which details that and other experiences the Disney (DIS) CEO had with the former Apple (AAPL) CEO.
Regarding a potential merger, Iger writes that “if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously.”
The pair’s relationship began in 2005, after Iger became CEO of Disney. The company had been distributing Pixar films for a decade, but that was set to end when Jobs had a falling out with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. When Iger succeeded Eisner, one his first tasks was to rekindle the fraught relationship between the two companies.
Iger described the dissolution of the partnership as a “huge blow, from both a financial and a public-relations standpoint.” He added that Jobs’ “animosity toward Disney was too deep-rooted.” But he went ahead and formed a relationship with Jobs over the ways people would watch TV in the future, at around the same time Jobs was developing the video iPod.
The two agreed to sell Disney shows, like “Lost,” on iTunes. From there, they formed not only a business partnership, but a personal friendship.
“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 Iger’s “radical idea” to buy Pixar. Jobs liked it. In 2006, Disney bought Pixar from Apple for $7.4 billion in a successful attempt to reinvigorate Disney’s lagging animation division.
Jobs joined Disney’s board after the acquisition and became Disney’s largest shareholder. Iger wrote that “whenever I wanted to do something big, I talked it over with him,” including Disney’s $4 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009.
Iger also recalled when Jobs told him he had cancer just minutes prior to announcing the Pixar deal. Jobs gave him the chance to back out of the deal, but he rejected it.
“No matter what he told me, no matter how resolved he would be in his fight with cancer, we dreaded what was ahead for him,” Iger wrote.
Jobs died in October 2011 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.
Iger wrote about a moment he had with Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell Jobs after the 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.
Iger’s connection with Apple ended last week. He resigned from his position on Apple’s board after joining it in 2011, a month after Jobs died. It’s common for executives to step down from boards when the companies they work for become rivals with the companies they direct.
In this case, Apple and Disney are entering the streaming services realm: Apple TV+ and Disney+. Both will air original television shows and movies to subscribers. And both will be available in November.
Iger’s book comes out on September 23.