Bob Iger and Steve Jobs at 2005 video iPod launch (Photo by Kimberly White/Corbis via Getty Images)
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If Steve Jobs were still alive, it's possible Apple may have combined with Disney in what would have been the biggest merger of all time.
The what-if scenario is mentioned in Disney CEO Bob Iger's upcoming new book, which covers his relationship with Apple's legendary co-founder. The two became friends after Disney bought Pixar, the animation studio Jobs owned as a majority shareholder, back in 2006.
Vanity Fair published an excerpt from the book, where Iger reflects on Jobs and his impact on Disney. It includes this curious tidbit: "More than that, I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously," Iger says, without going into details.
Much of the excerpt talks about Iger's effort as Disney's then-new CEO to buy Pixar, which at the time was seen as a bold and risky idea. Disney and Pixar previously worked together on the Toy Story films. However, acrimony had broken out between Jobs and Disney's previous CEO, Michael Eisner, resulting in an end to the partnership between the two companies.
Iger, who was named Disney's CEO in 2005, tried to smooth over relations with Jobs, culminating in a talk between the two executives that would foretell the future of Disney and Apple.
"I'd been thinking about the future of television, and believed it was only a matter of time before we would be accessing TV shows and movies on our computers," Iger recounts. "I didn't know how fast mobile technology was going to evolve (the iPhone was still two years away), so what I was imagining was an iTunes platform for television, 'iTV,' as I described it."
According to Iger, Jobs responded by personally meeting with the Disney CEO and showing him a sneak peek of Apple's then-secret product: the video iPod. Jobs then asked if he could put Disney's television shows on it, and Iger immediately agreed.
Apple and Disney are now preparing to launch their own, competing video-streaming services this fall. Iger, a long-time Apple board member, resigned last week over the conflict of interest.
As for the idea of Apple merging with Disney, rumors of a potential tie-up have been floated for years. But one obstacle standing in the way could be antitrust regulators, which are already probing Google, Facebook, and Amazon for anticompetitive conduct.
The Vanity Fair excerpt also mentions that Jobs played a key role in helping Disney buy Marvel. Iger's book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, arrives Sept. 23.