Group: Super ModEARator
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: May 04, 2006, 10:24 am
Chuck Oberleitner speculates what Steve Jobs may or may not be doing with Disney in this article on o-meon... Steve Jobs has a history of suddenly reversing himself even after making statements to the public about business matters, so perhaps he'll have a large role to play at Disney even though he denies it at the moment. Here are highlights of Chuck's article:
The iSteve Cometh
By C. W. Oberleitner
May 3, 2006
Any day now, the Walt Disney Company will close on its deal to acquire partner Pixar Animation Studios. Since the deal was first announced last January, speculation has run high as to what role Pixar CEO Steve Jobs will play at the new Disney-Pixar Mouse House.
It’s Official…For Now
Last Thursday, Apple Computer, Inc. held its annual shareholders’ meeting. During the meeting, Steve Jobs, who in addition to being CEO of Pixar Animation Studios is also the chief executive of Apple, was asked by a shareholder if he wanted to be the next Michael Eisner at the Walt Disney Company.
According to an Associated Press account of the meeting, Jobs responded saying he had no interest in becoming a Disney Company executive. In fact, Jobs told shareholders he plans to spend more time at Apple after he relinquishes his chief executive job at Pixar when the studio's merger with Disney closes in two weeks.
Jobs, describing the acquisition and his part in it, went on to say, “It's not because I want to be a senior manager at Disney. I don't want to do that.” He added that he thought current Disney CEO Bob Iger “is the best person to run Disney.”
For his part, Iger, during Disney’s annual meeting held last March in Anaheim, confirmed what analysts, Disney fans, and Mac Faithful alike have been saying since the Pixar acquisition was first announced: Steve Jobs will join the Disney board “later this year.”
After having gone on record in such an unambiguous way, you’d think that Jobs’ statements at Apple’s annual meeting would lay to rest once and for all any speculation about his taking on a larger role with the Mouse. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.
Wrong because after years of leading Apple, first up (Macintosh), then down (previewing the window-based Mac OS to Microsoft), then way up again (iPod), Steve Jobs has developed an amazing propensity for publicly staking out and defending positions all the way up to the minute he reverses himself.
In 1997, Jobs offered an eerily familiar sounding response to the question of whether or not he planned on taking control of Apple, following that company’s acquisition of his NeXT Software company. Jobs told a BusinessWeek reporter, “People keep trying to suck me in. They want me to be some kind of Superman. But I have no desire to run Apple Computer. I deny it at every turn, but nobody believes me.”
Later that same year, Jobs “reluctantly” agreed to accept on a “temporary basis” the position of interim CEO...
...Is it any wonder that business writers describing Jobs’ denial of interest in a management role at Disney sound more like Eric Idle performing his famous Monty Python “Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Know what I mean?” sketch than serious financial analysts?
The Past as Prologue
Within hours of the Disney-Pixar announcement, reporters and analysts were falling all over themselves attempting to draw parallels between that deal and Apple’s 1996 purchase of Jobs NeXT Software.
In 1985, Jobs resigned from Apple after being stripped of his executive duties by Apple’s board of directors. John Sculley, who Jobs had lured from PepsiCo to give Apple more street cred with Wall Street, was made CEO.
Jobs launched NeXT...
NeXTSTEP became so well known in IT circles that it caught the attention of Apple’s then CEO Gil Amelio.
Amelio was so impressed by the NeXT OS that he scrapped Apple’s long overdue and oft failed attempts at modernizing the Mac’s OS. In 1996, he persuaded Apple’s board to buy NeXT with the understanding that NeXTSTEP would become the Mac’s new modern operating system. As part of the deal, Jobs gave up all control over NeXT and was to assume the role of “consultant” at Apple.
Once back at the company he co-founded with boyhood friend Steve Wozniak, it didn’t take Jobs long to see that, despite having the foresight to end Apple’s futile struggle to build a new Mac OS by buying a ready-made solution, Amelio had been unable to do little to reign in the chaos that for years had been loosing the Cupertino computer maker market share and driving it closer and closer to the brink of oblivion.
For the second time in little more than a decade, Jobs found himself at the center of an Apple boardroom coup. This time it was Amelio who found himself out on the street, as Jobs returned to active management as Apple interim or “iCEO,” a title he held until formally becoming Apple’s chief executive in 2000.
Analysts have sited that cautionary tale dozens of times since January when Iger appeared with Jobs before reporters to announce the Mouse’s agreement to acquire the Emeryville CG animation studio, lock, stock, and John Lasseter. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Apple, with an iPod powered market capitalization of nearly $61 billion—$8.7 billion in cash, would buy Disney, whose market cap, diluted by its acquisition of Pixar, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $54 billion.
Push Me, Pull You
From a business stand point, the Walt Disney Company has always been rather schizophrenic. As the working relationship between brothers and company founders Walt and Roy Disney evolved, it became clear that their studio was its most efficient and successful when Walt focused on creativity and Roy on finances and business affairs. From the Great Depression through WW II, and up to Walt’s death in 1966, this working arrangement served the company well.
The pattern of growth and success through joint leadership at Walt Disney Productions emerged again in 1984. Following a boardroom coup, popular entertainment industry executive Frank Wells and creative studio head Michael Eisner were brought in to turn around the lackluster performance of Walt Disney Productions.
For ten years, these two men, along with Jeffery Katzenberg who Eisner brought along from Paramount Studios to run the Disney Studio, oversaw tremendous growth, box office, and artistic success at what became today’s Walt Disney Company.
As if to prove a point, things began to go wrong for the Disney Company following Wells’ tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1994. The successful formula of joint leadership was broken when Eisner assumed both creative and management control of the company taking the titles of President, Chief Executive, and Chairman of the Board.
The Disney Company is still overseen by only one business executive, Eisner’s successor Bob Iger. Unlike Eisner, Iger is prohibited by Disney’s corporate bylaws from becoming board chairman; he does, however, still hold the title of President.
So despite Jobs’ protestations, does Iger’s decision to buy Pixar mean that he understands the value of having a joint business/creative management team at the top of the Mouse House?
Answer Hazy, Try Again Later
Many analysts believe that later this year Iger will appoint either Dick Cook (Chairman The Walt Disney Studios) or Ann Sweeney (Co-Chair Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC Television Group) as the next President of the Walt Disney Company. A few have gone so far as to predict that Iger will tap current Disney CFO Tom Staggs for the job.
Choosing any one of these three highly qualified Disney executives to be the new president of the company would go a long way toward dispelling any notion that Steve Jobs might jump ship at Apple and move down to Burbank. But, with the exception of Cook, it would once again tip Mouse House management toward the business side of things and leave creativity at the company without a strong voice at the top.
That is, if it weren’t for one thing.
There isn’t a member of the Mac Faithful anywhere who honestly believes Jobs wants to or ever would consider leaving Apple again. At the same time, most of these same folks see him as the heir apparent to Walt Disney’s legacy of vision and innovation. Additionally, more than a few Wall Street types have privately been hoping the father of the Mac and the iPod will find a way to continue to guide Apple while at the same time enfolding Disney in the Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field. The solution to this conundrum may lay with the Disney board of directors.
Former Senator George J. Mitchell, chairman of the Disney board, has long expressed his desire to leave that post. Mitchell, 72, has also reached the mandatory retirement age for Disney directors. The Disney board tried and failed last year to name a new chairman as Mitchell’s successor. As a result, he was asked by Iger and the board to stay on for another year.
Shortly after the board persuaded Mitchell to stay on, Iger, who had been actively working to renew Disney’s working relationship with Pixar, learned of Jobs’ willingness to consider an outright sale of the CG animation studio. Shortly after Iger and Jobs announced the deal, rumors began to circulate that among the conditions of sale was a provision that Jobs be made chairman of the Disney board...
Now, following his pronouncements at Apple’s annual meeting, Jobs watchers have been quick to point out that the Barnum of Tech Talk was, as always, very careful in choosing his words.
“He (Jobs) only said he had no interest in becoming an executive at Disney,” a long time IT consultant specializing in Apple products said. “Later on he said he didn’t want to be a ‘senior manager’ for them either. He never mentioned his role on the board or said anything about being chairman.”
The consultant went on to say that as Disney’s single largest shareholder Jobs would “pretty much be able to do whatever he wants to at Disney.”
Jobs has already demonstrated that he can simultaneously keep an eye on two multibillion dollar corporations. In theory, becoming chairman of the board at Disney while still running Apple shouldn’t require the same amount of effort as overseeing both Apple and Pixar.
Such a scenario could also be seen as restoring the dual visionary and fiduciary leadership paradigm that has served the Disney Company so well throughout its history.
Right now, Steve Jobs is the only person who knows what Steve Jobs has planned for his future. For the time being, he’s said that he has no desire to assume a management or executive role at the Walt Disney Company.
Jobs will probably go right on saying that—right up to the moment he decides to do something else!
Read the complete article here.