How Bob Iger Remade the House That Walt Built

Instead of the easy fixes, Bob Iger played the long game by addressing Disney’s cultural issues head-on, by making it stronger and more profitable with greater depth.

Not only will technology enable ESPN to cover sports better, cover more sports and give the fan an even better experience, but it will provide much more accessibility than ever before. That should power ESPN’s growth rather significantly over the next decade. Mobile technology is the most exciting thing—by the way, not just for ESPN—but for our other businesses, Disney, Marvel, Pixar, ABC and all of our critical brands.

Having been on the board of Apple since late 2011, what takeaways have you been able to incorporate into Disney and what influences has Disney had on Apple?
Apple today is what Steve Jobs created—high quality, relentless pursuit of perfection when it comes to their products and unbelievable attention to design and aesthetics. Everything they do adheres to those values and attributes of the brand. I observed from Steve and adopted some of his priorities as our own. Seeing him do it gave me even more impetus or drive to do similar things—or to do what I had wanted to do anyway.

There are similarities in what I brought to Apple. For example, we’re both big believers in the power of brands and the need to continue to feed brands with innovation. I bring a little bit more experience as a CEO of a global company perhaps. I like to think that I can offer some advice and perspective to Tim Cook, who I respect tremendously, as a relatively newer CEO. Obviously my media experience is valuable, as I am the only board member with that experience. I’m now more of an elder statesman.

Is it true that Steve Jobs once called you up after seeing a Disney film and said, “Bob, that movie sucks.”
That’s true. He did. Steve and I used to talk a lot; and frequently, he called me on weekends because it was a great time for us to not only catch up but to muse about all sorts of things. One afternoon, he called to say, “Hey, Bob, my son and I just went to one of your movies, and it sucked.” And I said, “Well, you may think it sucked, but it did $100 million in box office this weekend, so there are a lot of other people [who] thought otherwise. And while I think that there were some things about the film that could have been better, I respectfully disagree.”

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