Steve Jobs’ arrival at the Magic Kingdom could have more thrills than trip to Disneyland

Apple CEO Steve Jobs “will have to navigate a minefield of conflicts as he runs Apple and sits on Disney’s board. He’ll also have to demonstrate he can take on the unfamiliar role of supporting player. The same perfectionism that allows him to help create great products has made it difficult for him to stand by if someone is going in what he considers the wrong direction. When he returned to Apple as part of the next acquisition, he insisted he didn’t want Amelio’s job, and then quickly took charge. Already, there’s speculation in Silicon Valley that Disney’s chief could get ‘Amelioed,'” Peter Burrows and Ronald Grover write for BusinessWeek.

“Iger isn’t in the most secure spot. He has revamped Disney’s management style and has improved some operations. Still, the company’s stock is at about the same level it was a decade ago. And Iger has only been CEO a few months, so he’s on new footing with Disney’s directors. One management expert calls the Jobs move “courageous” but says “Iger just put a gun to his head,” predicting that Jobs’s influence in the boardroom would be so pervasive that Iger could be gone within a year,” Burrows and Grover write. “Jobs declined to be interviewed for this article. But some executives who know him well insist that Iger has nothing to fear. ‘People are misreading Steve Jobs,’ says Edgar S. Woolard Jr., the former chairman of Apple and former chairman and CEO of chemical giant DuPont. ‘If he has a good relationship with you, there is nobody better in the world to work with. Iger made a very wise move, and two years from now everyone will be saying that.'”

“Jobs certainly has much to offer… Jobs has applied his old strategy to the new digital world. With absolute control, breakout innovation, and stellar marketing, he has created products that consumers lust after. The smooth melding of Apple’s iPod with the iTunes software has helped make it an icon of the Digital Age. Rivals from Microsoft to Dell to Sony (SNE). have been left in the dust,” Burrows and Grover write. “In the final analysis, Jobs’s true secret weapon is his ability to meld technical vision with a gut feel for what regular consumers want and then market it in ways that make consumers want to be part of tech’s cool club. Says a leading tech CEO who requested anonymity: ‘God usually makes us either left brain people or right brain people. Steve seems to have both sides, so he can make extraordinary experiences.'”

“The Disney deal may help give Jobs some additional credibility in the media world. While he had a major stake in Pixar in the past, he now sits on the board of one of the biggest media companies in the country. That means he has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the company’s assets, from Desperate Housewives to Mickey Mouse,” Burrows and Grover write. “Jobs has said he doesn’t want the Disney top board job. Plus, that would complicate the potential conflicts of interest with Apple, as Disney makes more high-tech deals to distribute its content. Still, the mercurial new Disney board member could make a play to become chairman, say those with knowledge of Disney’s board. “The problem then is that Bob would have a larger-than-life chairman to deal with only a year after a larger-than-life CEO was running his life,” says one source close to Disney. ‘I can’t imagine he’s thrilled over that.’ Steve Jobs’s arrival at the Magic Kingdom could have more thrills than a trip to Disneyland.”

Full article with much more here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader “George L.” for the link.]

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18 Comments

  1. Iger wants Jobs on the Board to strengthen his position. Look for big changes at Disney over the next couple of years.

    The Eisner years are over. The Mouse House is making a comeback.

  2. Jobs has to tread carefully here. Without solid support from the board, a stunt like the coup against Amelio would blow up badly in his face. And there is absolutely no guarantee that support would materialize as promised. Hollywood is like the intelligence world, a “wilderness of mirrors” where nothing is as it seems, subterfuge is the order of the day, and everybody has secondary and tertiary hidden agendas. There is no more ruthless, cutthroat business than the entertainment industry, and Hollywood is filled with people who could make bin Laden grab his blankie and run crying for his mommy. It’s also instructive that the sharks all think of Disney as something like the entertainment industry’s version of Keyser Soze. They are feared.

    Make no mistake, although Iger brings a kinder gentler facade to post-Eisner Disney, this is not a company you screw with, or try to screw over. The average media company executive makes Bill Gates look like Mother Teresa, and if Jobs tried something that got under their skin, they would close ranks against the outsider trying to upset the apple cart. Steve plays hardball, but this is a different league altogether.

  3. Looks like they’ll try a good cop/bad cop routine. Steve (with recon from Lasseter) can tear through the company to root out the incompetent drones on the creative side while Iger wears a nice blue suit and tries to keep everyone happy, especially on Wall Street.

  4. You know, I’ve always considered Steve Jobs to be very similar to Walt Disney, in terms of his personality and public perception of him. Steve is widely admired by Apple afficionados because of the cool products that Apple turns out, likewise Uncle Walt became a global icon because of Disney Studios’ universally loved animated movies, characters etc. In terms of personality, the one salient characteristic of both men is (was in Walt’s case), their unbending insistence that their perfectionist vision be obeyed.

    Contrary to the persona he conveyed on “The Wonderful World of Disney”, Walt was a chain-smoking tyrant who pushed himself and his underlings like a slavedriver to deliver. Likewise with Steve. Say what you will about both men, their adherence to their personal vision and to hell with hurt feelings has given the world a lot of cool, enjoyable stuff. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out, someone with Walt’s drive back at Disney.

  5. Already, there’s speculation in Silicon Valley that Disney’s chief could get ‘Amelioed,'”

    Yada-yada-yada…. Gotta make some news, y’know? Stir the pot and see what spills out. Sorry, that’s lowbrow journalism, even if the piece itself is quite reasonable. Speculation from who? It’s like asking any self-respecting hooker if she’s ever serviced the mayor.

    Confidentially, my dear….

  6. i see lots of upside to this deal for Disney–but maybe some downside for Apple.

    Disney desperately needs a shot in the creative arm in the worst way. Their family/animation division is flat and visionless. It would be a great coup if Disney animation can begin to resemble robustness of Pixar. But the good part is that it would happen on a much larger scale than Pixar alone.

    OTOH, this dramatically increases Jobs role as a ‘studio chief’–and as the article mentions he now has a ‘fiduciary’ duty to see that allthings Disney are chaperoned. This probably means quite a bit more heavy-handed DRM tactics from Apple to protect entertainment intellectual property across the board. Which ends up being LESS flexability for the consumers.

  7. It’s funny, these journalists have based their predictions for Steve’s arrival at Disney on the Apple Steve Jobs when they should be basing it on the Pixar Steve Jobs. At Apple, sure, Steve runs the show. He is the man with the vision and he is probably aware of just about everything that happens in the company on a day to day basis.

    The Pixar Steve Jobs is very different. He typically only devotes one day a week to Pixar, and he’s very hands off. From what I’ve read, he doesn’t interfere with the creative at all, and he only comes to the business side when they need to do some tough negotiating. Ed Catmull runs the business side, and John Lassiter runs the creative. Steve has been smart to leave them alone. There’s no reason to believe he’ll do anything different at Disney.

    Viridian, was that a Fish reference?

  8. Viridian,

    From your first post: “Hollywood is like the intelligence world, a “wilderness of mirrors” where nothing is as it seems…”

    That’s almost a line from a Fish song called “Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors”. But I’m guessing it wasn’t since you didn’t know what I was asking about : )

  9. Ndelc,

    Ah. The original line is from T.S Eliot’s poem “Gerontion”: “In a wilderness of mirrors, what will the spider do?”

    The phrase entered the popular consciousness when James Jesus Angleton, former chief of counter-intelligence for the CIA described the intelligence game: “The world of spying is a wilderness of mirrors.” I was referring to Angleton’s famous quote, in which he was alluding to the fact that in his business, nothing is as it seems. Oddly, many of the original members of the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, were recruited from select students of Yale University. The OSS were noteworthy for the number of educated, highly literate men among its inner circles, so it’s not unusual for a member to have quoted Eliot.

    Sorry about the Fact-Filled Friday post. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  10. I think Iger’s job is as secure as he wants it. Jobs has little time for fools. He gets rid of them quickly. But as the article states, when you have Jobs’ respect, then you are as secure as a bug in a rug.

    it’s obvious to even casual observers that Iger has Jobs’ respect.

    They will debate and argue different points, but at the end of the day, they are of like mind with a huge helping of mutual respect.

    This is a good fit. Anybody that says otherwise is just trying to increase readership.

  11. “Sorry about the Fact-Filled Friday post.”

    Not at all. Very interesting. Fish is a Scottish singer-songwriter with a history of making literary references in his poetic lyrics, so it’s not at all surprising. Thanks for the info.

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