Disney CEO Bob Iger kept Steve Jobs’s cancer a secret for three years

“Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger knew early on that Steve Jobs’s cancer had returned and kept it a secret for three years before it became public knowledge, a new biography of Apple Inc.’s late CEO reveals,” Tim Higgins reports for Bloomberg.

“Iger learned about the illness less than an hour before Disney announced its 2006 agreement to buy Pixar, the computer-animation studio run by Jobs, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg News. Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli will be published March 24,” Higgins reports. “The $7 billion deal made Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder and put him on the entertainment company’s board. Iger told the authors he thought about the implications of keeping such a secret at a time when regulators were calling for more disclosure and holding executives more accountable to their fiduciary duties. Ultimately, Iger decided that Disney was assessing the transaction on the value of Pixar, not Jobs.”

“‘I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice,’ Tim Cook, who took over as Apple’s CEO, is quoted as saying in the new book. ‘It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality. You get the feeling that [Steve’s] a greedy, selfish egomaniac. It didn’t capture the person,'” Higgins reports. “Cook reveals in Schlender and Tetzeli’s book that he offered Jobs a piece of his liver after learning in January 2009 that Jobs needed a transplant. Jobs angrily refused, according to Cook, who said a selfish person ‘doesn’t reply like that.’ Jobs was first diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and had surgery to remove it the next year. The tumor returned and he had a liver transplant in 2009.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Again, this — Schlender and Tetzeli’s book — sounds like the biography that we all wanted. Already, just from excerpts, there’s so much more than other “Steve Jobs” biographies.

How on God’s green earth did “official biographer” Walter Isaacson not know that Tim Cook offered Steve Jobs a part of his liver?

Seems like a very big item.

The fact is, Steve Jobs didn’t tell him. Perhaps Jobs realized that Walter was a “bozo” and he withheld crucial, interesting information so that the rest of the world could clearly see what an insipid, untalented bore Isaacson is? There’s really no other explanation other than that ol’ Walt lost his notes.

It’s one thing to write biographies of people long dead when there’s no one left alive who actually knew them. It’s quite another to take a dynamo like Steve Jobs and only be able to come up with pablum.

Although it was rare, it wasn’t the first time, but unfortunately it would be the last: Steve picked the wrong guy*.

*Sculley and Schmidt, for two prominent examples.

Related articles:
The evolution of Steve Jobs: It’s time to revisit — and correct — the myth – March 20, 2015
Apple CEO Cook blasts Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’ bio as a ‘just a rehash; a tremendous disservice’ – March 17, 2015
Steve Jobs: ‘I just don’t like television. Apple will never make a TV again’ – March 13, 2015
Tim Cook reportedly offered Steve Jobs his liver, but Jobs refused – March 12, 2015
Gruber: ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ is a remarkable new book – March 3, 2015


    1. The common thing in all of those cases is that Jobs was too trusting people doing what they agreed to do honestly.

      Jobs was harsh and lot of people were offended by it, but the driving force of even Jobs’ negative behaviour was not from being mean, but at his utter commitment and strive for perfection or being convinced and believing in what is right.

      So behaving sneaky in way that those few people listed above in that way was not among things how Jobs mind has worked.

      Example: back in 1979 Jobs came to Xerox PARC bosses with a deal that would let him have license to use few of PARC’s technologies in personal computer market (specifically excluding floor-top workstation market that Xerox Alto systems represented) in exchange of Apple shares.

      If he was Gates/Schmidt, he would use any other trick to get into PARC without paying/licensing anything, to he would get license for seemingly unrelated thing but then turn-around and use the technologies anyway under false pretences (like Gates did).

      Despite this difference in big-scale business ethics, somehow media portray Jobs as the bad one, not Gates, Schmidt and the like.

      1. The majority of people are clueless when it comes to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung. People think I’m a bit whacked when I extoll the virtues of Apple and Steve Jobs, but denigrate the likes of Gates, Ballmer, Schmidt and the Samsung cabal.

        When all you see and hear are the non-stop, extravagant commercials of the Android and MS cronies, and the blatant lies and exaggerations from the news media, it’s understandable why this is so.

  1. MDN can keep repeating their mantra regarding Isaacson, but everybody seems to keep forgetting one thing: Steve Jobs personally chose Isaacson, and he decided exactly what will go into the biography and what will not. If parts of his life (liver offer by Cook, Iger’s knowledge about cancer) didn’t make it in, it is because Jobs didn’t want them in. He is now dead and unfortunately he can’t control what others write about him. There will be no doubt others who will share most private details from Jobs’s live; details that he himself did NOT want shared (otherwise, he would have told his official biographer). Isaacson’s book was finished exactly around the time of Jobs’s death, and it is the ONLY one out there that Jobs had approved. NO other book about Jobs has been approved by Jobs; for better or for worse, Isaacson’s is the only one with the approval of the man himself. We can only speculate, but it is quite possible that Isaacson knew some of these juicy details that we’re now hearing from other writers, but was requested by Jobs NOT to write about them in the book, and Isaacson agreed, out of respect.

    The bottom line is, Jobs knew exactly what the result was going to be and he signed off on it. That may not be the biography Apple fans had hoped for, but that was the biography Jobs wanted; not any other kind.

    1. Well-said. This relentless bashing of Isaacson is pathetic. So you didn’t like the book; okay, fine. He’s a reputable writer and researcher who was granted access by Jobs. This constant trashing in such nasty terms—as if he is some kind of clown who stumbled on to the job—reflects more poorly on MDN than it does on Isaacson.

    2. Jobs asked Issacson to write the book but he made no conditions on the content and did not ‘approve’ the final draft.

      wikipedia : “Although Jobs cooperated with the book, he asked for no control over its content other than the book’s cover, and waived the right to read it before it was published”.
      I remember Jobs saying he wouldn’t even read the book.

      I believe Jobs thought that Isaacson would be ‘fair’ but the author went for the ‘money’ knowing that the general (not apple fan) public would be more interested in the trashy bits. There are factual errors in technical bits and so probably in the ‘human side’ as well. The book is sorry disappointment if you want to know Jobs the ‘Creator’. Jobs unfortunately had a habit of trusting people who would betray him (Bill Gates (for Windows) , Schmidt, the Google boys whom he mentored) etc.

    3. @Predrag

      I agree. I found Isaacson’s book to be good. As you point out, we cannot know why Isaacson did not publish certain details. I is quite plausible that Jobs didn’t want to mention Cook’s offer. If Jobs actually distrusted Isaacson, based on what we know about Jobs, I doubt that he would have allowed the book to proceed.

      The assumption of many of those critical of Isaacson’s book is that the biography is definitive. No person can be fully known by reading a single book about them. Clearly, Tim Cook knew Jobs well and since he says that the Isaacson didn’t capture some key facets of Jobs, I believe it. But that doesn’t mean Isaacson’s book is terrible. It’s a single perspective on Jobs that was well researched and thoughtfully written by a very good biographer. That is not mutually exclusive with the book not perfectly capturing Jobs as Tim Cook knew him.

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