The Hollywood Reporter placed Bob at the top of their annual ranking of Hollywood’s most powerful people.
first met in the mid-1980’s when Bob was a young executive at ABC Sports working for the legendary sports producer and executive, Roone Arledge. Bob later served as President of ABC Entertainment from 1989-92, and it was during his time in this position that we worked together on a made-for-television movie about the crash landing of United DC-10 Flight #232 in Sioux City, Iowa on July 19, 1989. The production had a wonderful cast that included Charlton Heston, Richard Thomas, James Coburn, Philip Baker Hall, and Tom Everett. With Bob’s assistance, we hosted a world-premiere screening in Sioux City for the real-life flight crew led by United Capt. Al Haynes, the first responders (which included representatives from the 185th Air National Guard and local fire/police/rescue crews), the two local hospitals, and dignitaries such as Governor Terry Branstad (see his WINNER’s profile) and Congressman Fred Grandy. The movie was presented on ABC during the February sweeps on February 24, 1992 and played to a large viewing audience. The screenplay was originally titled A Thousand Heroes but it was changed – over my strong objections – to Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232. Bob would acknowledge to me some years later that the original title “was a lot better!”
March 13, 2005, it was announced that he would succeed Michael Eisner as CEO.
has always held a forward-looking view of the future. On April 6, 1998, Bob gave the opening keynote address at the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas. Years later, in 2012, I came across a copy of that old NAB speech and sent it to Bob. It was fun to remind him how prescient and genuinely “futuristic” his remarks were, and point out just how many of his predictions involving program platforms, the computer and internet, and other technological changes had actually come true! One key passage vividly demonstrates the vision he had shared with the NAB audience more than a decade earlier: “The multitude of decisions we face today creates quite a challenge to any long-term planning process. None of us knows exactly where we’re going, but we can’t afford to stand still. The changes affecting our business over the past decade have been much more sweeping and consequential than most of us appreciate. Today’s viewer bears no resemblance to the viewer of yesterday, and the changes over the next ten years will be so vast that no one can predict with any assurance where the business is headed. If we continue to ignore the change, or attempt to conduct business as usual, we won’t be conducting much business at all. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still an optimist about the television business. I’m just not a cheerleader for the status quo.”
Vogue magazine, Bob said: “Disney is an interesting place because we’ll be 95 years old this October, and we’re striving to maintain relevance in a world that doesn’t look anything like the world that the brand was created in. It doesn’t even look like the world the brand existed in five years ago.” Looking back to 2005 when he was named CEO, Bob was the perfect choice to lead Disney through the concomitant changes at the center of the digital world in which we now live.
Dumbo, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Bambi, Mulan, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Cars, A Bug’s Life, Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc, Pocahontas, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, Big Hero 6, Cinderella, Brave, Hercules, The Aristocats, The Little Mermaid, Frozen, Pinocchio, Aladdin, Up, Wall-E, Moana, Beauty and the Beast, and Bolt. And, of course, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, Goofy, and Pluto were also prominently featured. Made of adhesive vinyl, it measures 46 feet wide and 8 feet tall. On the opposite hallway wall, a similarly sized mural featuring characters from the Disney classic, Peter Pan, was installed. The final product far exceed everyone’s expectations.
It was an honor for me to later introduce Bob at the dedication ceremony, and talk about the initiative he had announced one month earlier involving The Walt Disney Company’s commitment to dedicate more $100 million in company resources to children’s hospitals around the world over the next five years. My introduction also provided me the opportunity to discuss our long association and friendship, and point to his many accomplishments as the leader of one of the world’s most well-known and admired companies. In his dedication remarks, Bob said, “We really have a chance to actually follow in Walt’s actual footsteps to build on something that he himself had a hand in creating, and that makes this hospital, this visit and this day very special.” He later added, “Being able to bring a little of Disney’s values into a hospital where children and families are experiencing times of incredible stress and anxiety is a great thing.” At the conclusion of his remarks, Bob surprised the hospital executives, doctors, nurses and other invited guests with an announcement that The Walt Disney Company, in addition to the new artwork and other donated products and services, would be making a cash donation of $100,000 to Blank Children’s Hospital. It was a very special day, indeed.
Forbes, one of the “Most Admired Companies” by Fortune, one of the “Most Respected Companies” by Barron’s, and as “Company of the Year” by Yahoo Finance (2013). In March 2018 the Harris Poll on “Corporate Reputation” that quantifies reputation ratings for the 100 most visible companies in America saw Disney climb to No. 5 in their rankings which confirm that “consumers value brands that are standing by their values, building deep community relations and fueling momentum in science, health and education.” That strong showing also explains why Bob has been named one of Fortune’s “25 Most Powerful People in Business” (2006, 2007), one of the “Top Gun CEOs” by Forbes (2009), one of the “Best CEOs” by Institutional Investor (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011); MarketWatch “CEO of the Year” (2006); and “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine (2014).
r(“upfront” is a term used in the television industry to describe a weeklong series of presentations by network executives to advertisers and the trade press – Ed.), industry dinners and gatherings, and various award shows. One of the more memorable such occasions was the 80th Academy Awards in February 2008. It was an honor to attend the Governor’s Ball afterwards where Bob and his wife, Willow Bay, hosted the Disney tables with special guests Harrison Ford & Calista Flockhart (they would later marry in 2010); Billy Ray, Tish & Miley Cyrus (Miley was the teen idol star of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel at the time); and Kristin Chenoweth (who had performed the Oscar-nominated “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted hours earlier during the Oscars broadcast).
Vogue magazine did offer some insight into his political deliberations: “The thought I had was coming from the patriot in me, growing up at a time when we respected our politicians not only for what they stood for but because of what they accomplished. I am horrified by the state of politics in America today, and I will throw stones in multiple directions. Dialogue has given way to disdain. I, maybe a bit naively, believed that there was a need for someone in high elected office to be more open-minded and willing to not only govern from the middle but to try to shame everyone else into going to the middle.” Oprah Winfrey, someone rumored to have presidential ambitions of her own, said she’d have gone door to door to campaign for Bob. “I really, really pushed him to run,” Oprah told Vogue in that same article. I can relate to Oprah, having done the same in my July 2017 meeting and on several occasions thereafter. Our country’s loss will be Disney shareholders’ gain.
Iger, Robert A. (April 6, 1998) “National Association of Broadcasters Annual Conference Keynote Address” ABC Affiliate Relations
Cummings, Carrie (November 2, 2015) “People: 1995 – Steve Jobs” AdWeek
Lawhon, Danny (April 12, 2018) “110-character Disney mural unveiled by CEO Iger at Blank” The Des Moines Register
Press Release –
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Keneally, Meghan (December 14, 2017). “Disney chief Bob Iger signals he won’t run for president in 2020” Retrieved from www.abcnews.go.com
(March 7, 2018). “The Walt Disney Company commits more than $100 million to bring comfort to children and their families in hospitals” Retrieved from www.texaschildrens.org
Haskell, Rob (April 12, 2018). “Disney CEO Bob Iger On Taking the Biggest Risk of His Career” Retrieved from www.vogue.com
Littleton, Cynthia and Lopez, Ricardo (July 27, 2018). “Disney, 21st Century Fox Shareholders Vote to Approve $71.3 Billion Merger” Retrieved from www.variety.com