Imagine being the CEO of the most powerful and diverse entertainment company on the planet. Imagine reviving Disney Animation after its many failures by successfully absorbing Pixar. Imagine facilitating the acquisitions of several film giants like Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox. These are all phenomenal achievements, and they were all completed under one man: Bob Iger, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company.
Iger was born in February 1951; his father was a WWII veteran, and his mother a teacher. His journey to success began when he joined ABC in 1974 as a general helper, performing menial labor on television sets for $150 a week. Over time, he ascended the ranks of ABC, ultimately achieving CEO/president status in 1994.
In 1996, Disney purchased ABC for $19 billion, which is how Iger entered the Disney empire. Finally, in 2005, the Disney board named Iger CEO.
Iger quickly purchased Pixar from Steve Jobs for $7 billion, deciding that Disney Animation greatly needed reconfiguration and leadership from the outside. He also acquired Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion (what a steal), and Lucasfilm for the same price in 2012.
Iger also heavily pushed the concept which ultimately became Disney+, as he realized early on that the entertainment industry would eventually abandon scheduled programming and swarm to on-demand content.
The life and business saga of Bob Iger is chronicled in his incredible book, The Ride of a Lifetime.
This book was amazing; I absolutely loved learning about the process that Disney took to acquire Marvel and Star Wars, two brands that I’ve been following for most of my life. Because many of the events documented took place in the last decade, I can actually remember when certain story points took place. For example, reading about the cultural phenomenon that was Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame from Iger’s point of view was greatly insightful.
The creation of Disney+ and purchase of 20th Century Fox are also two recent developments that I have closely followed, so reading about them deeply immersed me into the story. Another truly epic moment was reading about how in 2009, Kevin Feige (currently president of Marvel) excitedly told Iger about his idea to create a universe of Marvel films that would all follow interconnected storylines, which would eventually become the MCU. The fact that I grew up throughout the execution of this master plan makes me love this story even more.
Aside from the awesome references to pivotal cultural events, there were a great deal of life lessons that I took away from this book through reading about Iger’s business strategies and personal relationships with tech and media tycoons.
For example, Iger displays the value of deep friendships through his brotherhood with Steve Jobs; they often consulted each other on many business decisions, and were a huge part of each others' lives. It was truly heartbreaking to hear about Jobs’s death from Iger’s point of view; Iger even states that “if Steve were still alive, we [Iger and Jobs] would have combined our companies,” which shows how strong their relationship was.
Another great lesson that Iger references multiple times is the idea that everyone believes in their own narrative, that they are doing the right thing. This is hugely apparent when discussing Disney’s battle with Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy Disney. Roy had been removed from Disney’s Board of Directors by the others, as they believed he was "very difficult at times" and hard to work with. Because of this, Roy launched a legal battle against Disney, claiming that they wrongfully chose Iger as the CEO.
When this occurred, there were two possible paths that Iger could have taken. He could have initiated a counterstrike and fought the lawsuit, which would have incurred heavy financial losses on both sides. Instead, Iger met with Roy one on one and heard him out. According to him, Roy had never been appreciated by his uncle, Walt, and was hurt that the rest of the board had forced him out of the company that bore his name, which he felt he was entitled to. As soon as Iger made peace with Roy and reinstated him as an honorary member of Disney, granting him access to many ceremonial events and building privileges, he dropped the lawsuit.
Iger’s decision to try to understand Roy’s side of the story and to make peace with him saved the company years of legal fees and stress. He showed compassion instead of returning fire, and ultimately achieved the best outcome. This event provided a clear example as to how every person deserves to be understood in any conflict, and how making the attempt to do so can often help both parties.
This was just one example of the many important lessons that Iger teaches through this book, all of which will stick with me for a long time.
The Ride of a Lifetime truly showed me that there are hugely personal aspects to every business decision, and the best way to maximize success and relationships with other businesses is to understand those personal connections.
If you’re someone who is interested in business or simply the methods that people use to rise up and run businesses effectively, I’d recommend this book. I’d also recommend this book to anyone who loves Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, or Apple, because it was so interesting to me to learn more about the connections between Disney and those other corporations.
Subscribe if you'd like to receive a short weekly email from us with an original thought, plus updates on our content and products.