Business Leaders: Walt Disney's Bob Iger

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Name: Robert A. "Bob" Iger
Date of Birth:
Feb. 10, 1951
Company: The Walt Disney Co.
Position: Chairman and CEO
Previous roles: The Walt Disney Co.'s president (2000 - 2012) and COO (2000 - 2005)
Education: Bachelor of science (1973) from Ithaca College
Quote: "You can't slow the pace of technology."

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Over the course of his career, Bob Iger has demonstrated the power of personal relationships and the benefits of putting the past aside to focus on the future. When Iger became CEO of Walt Disney Co., the company was on the verge of losing Pixar -- its most lucrative animation partner. Shortly after, Iger salvaged this relationship, ensuring that Disney's profitable animation unit stayed put.

Although he has been CEO for less than a decade, Iger has left an indelible mark on Disney's direction in the 21st century by bringing a wide range of intellectual property and talent to the company.

Iger started his career at ABC in 1974. He slowly made his way up the ranks, distinguishing himself with his eye for opportunity. When the rest of ABC was on the fence about "Twin Peaks," he rallied for the company to pick up what became a critically-esteemed cult hit. This ability to see promise in places others overlooked drove his success.

He was president of the ABC Network Television Group from 1993 to 1994. A few years later, Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and Iger became the ABC Group's chairman. He took on the additional role of being Walt Disney International's president, wherein he set the blueprint for the company's current international business strategy. Accomplishments like that led to him becoming president and COO of The Walt Disney Company. He held the COO position until taking over for Michael Eisner as CEO in 2005.

In the mid-2000s, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs announced publicly that Pixar would end its partnership with Disney to seek other avenues for distribution, much to Iger's disappointment. The strained relationship and lack of trust between Eisner and Jobs threatened to undermine the team that revolutionized animation.

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Whereas others at Disney thought the company could go it alone, newly appointed CEO Iger understood that animation affected many areas of Disney's business. Disney's non-Pixar early 2000 outings were marked by box office disappointments ("Atlantis," "Home on the Range"), but Disney's projects with Pixar ("Toy Story," "Finding Nemo") were among the company's most successful and critically lauded. Knowing this, Iger intended to negotiate a deal with Pixar that would benefit Disney's stockholders.

After Jobs decided to end the partnership, Iger reportedly picked up the phone and called Jobs personally. This friendly business call was the first of a few where Iger expressed enthusiasm for Apple's products and Disney's intellectual property across its platforms. Not long after that, Iger purchased Pixar from Apple, ensuring that profitable animation stayed with the company.

In 2009, Iger led the purchase of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, knowing that Marvel's subsidiary, Marvel Studios, had become a blockbuster powerhouse; he understood that Marvel's intellectual property under the Disney banner would provide a goldmine of business opportunities.

He also reacquired long-lost Disney icon Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the predecessor to Mickey Mouse created by Walt Disney with Ub Iwerks in the 1920s.

Iger's forward thinking helped the Walt Disney Company achieve record revenue, net income and earnings per share in 2011. Accounting for change in pension value and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings, Iger earned a total compensation of $31.4 million. Approximately 90 percent of his compensation came from company performance, such as stock awards, options and a performance-based bonus.

Outside of work, Iger serves on President Obama's Export Council. He also sits on the boards for Apple, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the U.S.-China Business Council and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc.

Disney announced that Iger will step down from his roles of CEO in 2015 and chairman in 2016, in the hopes of facilitating an orderly succession, though a replacement hasn't yet been named.

 

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