Bob Iger Talks About Making Acquisitions at the Walt Disney Company on the Podcast “Masters of Scale”

Bob Iger recently gave an interview on the podcast Masters of Scale, hosted by Reid Hoffman about his days leading up to CEO at Disney, and the important steps in the acquisitions he made.

We highly recommend listening to the entire podcast as there were great stories told throughout his career that lead to understanding how to properly make acquisitions, letting the companies know they are valued, and not being brought in just for a stock bump. Here are some of the highlights made during the interview.

  • As CEO, Iger says he had three priorities when taking over: quality branded content, embrace technology, go global.
  • The first task was fixing Disney Animation, leading to the purchase of Pixar. But the story starts with his understanding of acquisitions, and what it takes to get them done.
  • Iger talks about one of his first experiences with it when Disney bought Capital Cities, where he was President and COO. Michael Eisner allowed him to keep his responsibilities giving him a seat at the table to help with the businesses at Disney as a global brand.
  • A change that Capital Cities brought over to Disney with the buyout was a more collegial means of behaving, where previously Disney businesses would to an extent compete with one another.
  • In acquiring Pixar, top-down management style from ‘90s Disney wouldn’t work, so he allowed them to be themselves and signed a social contract where it listed everything they would preserve at Pixar after the acquisition, from new employee celebrations to team parties.
  • Pixar’s acquisition laid the groundwork for how future acquisitions would be done at the company. Iger, Kevin Mayer (Head of Strategy), and Tom Staggs (CFO) put together a target list with companies they wanted with Marvel and Lucasfilm as their top two.
  • For Marvel, the number of characters being acquired would give them an unlimited amount of stories with a huge fanbase. To convince Ike Perlmutter, Iger got Steve Jobs to talk with him about the Pixar acquisition and how they were a great partner. It lead to the deal in summer 2009.
  • Iger considers Black Panther to be one of his top five career successes, bringing something that became a huge part of world culture.
  • For Lucasfilm, Iger met with George Lucas at a ribbon-cutting at Walt Disney World Resort, where he asked him about the future of Lucasfilm and George said if he ever sold to anyone, it would be Disney. It took six months before Geroge called him about the sale he was now interested in doing.
  • Iger felt the sense of tension in Lucas and wanted to make sure he respected the Star Wars franchise.
  • Iger on the acquisitions: “I learned over time that even though the press and the street kind of put our names together, Marvel, a division of Disney, the consumer looks at Marvel as Marvel, and Disney as Disney, and Pixar as Pixar, and Star Wars as Star Wars. And we manage them well when we bring them to market.”

About the Podcast:

  • Masters of Scale is an original podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and investor at Greylock. In each episode, Reid shows how companies grow from zero to a gazillion, testing his theories with legendary leaders. Masters of Scale is the first American media program to commit to gender balance for guests.

About the Episode:

  • “An acquisition shouldn’t be a fight to the death. No one knows this better than Bob Iger, executive chair and former CEO of the Walt Disney Company. In this special two-part episode, Iger takes us through how he supercharged the House of Mouse by acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox.”

You can check out the full Bob Iger episode here. In the second part of the interview which will be out soon, Hoffman and Iger discuss what happened after the Lucasfilm acquisition with a debate over control with Lucas.

Sign up for Disney+ or the Disney Streaming Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu) now