When you wish upon a star… it makes no difference. At 68 years of age, Bob Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company since 2005, has made it known he really wouldn’t mind calling it a day. But his runaway success running the house of mouse means shareholders are keen for him to remain in charge indefinitely.
Year took up current function: 2005
Turnover in 2018: $59.4bn
Growth in 2018: 7.5%
And they would be fools not to, given the staggering success this former journalist has had over the last decade and a half, with blockbuster deal after blockbuster deal turning Disney into the undisputed king of popular entertainment.
When Iger was handed the keys to the magic kingdom by Michael Eisner, he decided to base Disney’s growth strategy on one thing: diversification. And to do this he was willing to empty Aladdin’s Cave. In 2006, Disney spent $7.4 billion to acquire Pixar, its main rival in the animated film sector. Four years later $4 billion got Iger Marvel and its highly profitable stable of superheroes, such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. In 2012 Lucasfilm, the studio behind the mythic Star Wars saga, fell under the dominion of the Burbank empire for a similar fee. These investments have paid off to such an extent that they look no-brainers in hindsight. Between 2004 and 2018 Disney’s turnover has practically doubled, from $33 to $56 billion, with market cap jumping from $56 to $164 billion over the same period.
Iger’s latest masterstroke was sealed in March, when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. This acquisition is widely viewed as being the final piece of the jigsaw that will allow the company’s soon-to-launch streaming service, Disney+, to rival Netflix and Amazon Prime. With his dealmaking ability, Iger has brought Walt Disney’s venerable company into a whole new world.