Why Bob Iger's sudden departure from Disney actually makes sense
Bob Iger’s decision to abruptly pass the CEO torch to Walt Disney Co. veteran Bob Chapek came as a surprise to investors. But it’s not the first time Iger has caught Wall Street off guard. During his 15 years as chief executive, Iger delivered more than a few surprises, which ultimately provided a window into his long-term vision for the company.
“I am very invested in not just Disney today, but Disney long term,” Iger told me in a Bloomberg Television interview in 2014.
Iger used transformational acquisitions to help fuel those long-term plans.
Disney’s sales have risen from roughly US$32 billion in 2005 (when he took over as CEO) to more than US$80 billion, which the company is expected to generate in 2020 according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.
Here’s what many would consider to be the five most important acquisitions during Iger’s time as CEO:
2006: US$7.4-billion acquisition of Pixar
The acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, in retrospect, may have been Iger’s most important deal. It happened early in his tenure as CEO and immediately repaired Disney’s relations with Steve Jobs. Beyond ensuring a pipeline of profitable Pixar originals, it deepened the company’s talent pool and helped breathe new life into Disney’s own animated films.
2009: US$4-billion acquisition of Marvel
Looking back, the price paid seems modest, considering how dominant Disney’s Marvel releases have become at the box office. This deal highlights the importance of execution after an acquisition. The near flawless rollout of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become one of the most important case studies in Hollywood history.
2012: US$4-billion acquisition of Lucasfilm
Taking ownership of the Star Wars empire further secured Disney’s movie theatre dominance. After setting several box office records, the company is slowing down its theatrical releases. But Star Wars offerings are increasingly becoming an important consumer draw for the upstart Disney+ streaming service and the company’s parks business.
2017: Acquisition of majority stake in BAMTech
While it is one of Iger’s lesser known deals, taking control of this technology company helped set the stage for the launch of Disney+. Its streaming platform ensured consumers could enjoy a similar experience to what they’ve come to expect with rival Netflix Inc.
2018: US$71-billion acquisition of Fox assets
The deal, which became official in 2019, was arguably Iger’s trickiest to pull off. After first being announced in December 2017, a bidding war with Comcast Corp. pushed up the price. But gaining control of the Fox movie studio, FX, National Geographic and further ownership of Hulu enabled Iger to round out his streaming arsenal and prepare for the onslaught of rival services that will continue to roll out in the years ahead.