Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's New in Disney News - Vol 3

Steve Jobs - Apple Co-Founder - 1955 - 2011
It's been an eventful week on the Disney news front on the corporate side of things. First up.

Steve Jobs - Apple Co-Founder, twice CEO, and chief visionary passed away this past week after a long bout with pancreatic cancer and its aftermath. He was 56. Jobs is an Apple guy, credited with inventing or co-inventing Mac computers, iPods, iPhones, and most recently, the iPad. What does this have to do with Disney news? Most Disney fans know the story. Once upon a time, Steve Jobs, with money made from Apple, bought a small computer graphics company from George Lucas's LucasFilms. That little computer graphics company, now headquartered in Emeryville, CA, became Pixar. Pixar produced movies but needed a movie studio to distribute them. Pixar partnered with the Walt Disney Studios to distribute their films beginning with the original Toy Story. Once the contractual arrangement with Disney was up, Steve Jobs and Pixar were open to the highest bidder to distribute their now massively popular films. 

Of course, Disney and CEO Bob Iger, could not let Pixar get away. Disney made a massive offer to buy Pixar from Jobs. Of course, Jobs didn't need the cash as he was now actively involved in Apple's resurgence as the technical innovator on a global scale. He sold Pixar to Disney for Disney stock, a lot of Disney stock. Steve Jobs became Disney's single largest individual stockholder owning a little over 7% of the company by himself. He was also on the Disney Board of Directors. Though you didn't see a huge thumbprint from Jobs in the Disney company, there were subtle things. Jobs was a masterful retailer of his Apple products through the Apple stores, hugely innovative and profitable. In a bad economy, where most retail stores needed sales and gimmicks to get people in, Jobs had people lining up to get inside the tech savvy austere Apple stores. Much of the clean-up of Disney retail stores making them simpler, more spartan, and better displayed, is attributed to Jobs success with Apple retailers. 

Steve Jobs was only 56 when he died. With all the money in the world, sometimes you can't buy what is most precious - time on earth.

Bob Iger - One of the few people who spoke with Steve Jobs before he passed away was Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Bob brought Steve into Disney through the Pixar acquisition so I am sure the titans of industry had plenty to talk about. This passed week, Iger signed what was announced as his final contract to be the CEO of Disney. That contract will run to March 31, 2015, at which time Iger will step down as CEO and just become Board Chairman for a year while all the affairs and transition is put in order. 

I (along with other Disney fans) take jabs at Iger once in awhile because Disney is an easy target sometimes. Being one of the biggest, most profitable, most successful entertainment and media communications companies in the world, its easy to take a swipe at one of their occasional missteps. Iger, a onetime TV weatherman, came from the TV background. He was president of ABC when Disney acquired ABC/Cap Cities (which also included ESPN). Somehow in a 5 year span, he moved himself into the CEO role after Roy Disney forced the ouster of Michael Eisner.

But for most Disney fans, especially in California, Iger has made many good moves. Ultimately, it was Iger who signed off on the Disney California Adventure expansion and installed Pixar's John Lasseter as Chief Creative Consultant over many aspects of the Disney business including parks and animated films. Iger orchestrated the job switch between Jay Rasulo and Tom Staggs which brought the affable Staggs to the pivotal position as Chairman of Disney Parks moving the less popular with fans Rasulo into the corporate background as Chief Financial Officer (Staggs old position). Of course, Disney fans still ask why bean-counters like Rasulo and U.S and Europe parks president Meg Crofton still have their jobs in the company.

Anyway, the next few years should be interesting as to who becomes Iger's successor. It is pretty much thought that Staggs is being groomed for the position. Iger and Staggs have appeared together at many grand openings over the last couple of years and seem to work well together. At around 60 years of age, Iger looks much younger than his years and the same can be said for Staggs. Rasulo is the wild card in all this since he is a company man through and through. It should be interesting the next few years.

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