Past Event On January 22, 2022
Bob Iger with Kara Swisher
The Ride of a Lifetime
“When I turned 60, I thought to myself, if I’m lucky I’ve lived two thirds of my life. But I felt like I only experienced one third of it. So I had this feeling there’s lots of things I’d still like to do and experience, so that’s what I’d like to do. ”Bob Iger
THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME
PROGRAM DATE: JANUARY 22, 2022
In his first speaking engagement since his retirement from The Walt Disney Company three weeks ago, Bob Iger sat down with Kara Swisher at The Richmond Forum on January 22 at The Altria Theater and had a conversation about all things Disney, tech, business, leadership, and what is to come next in the media business as well as his own path.
Iger spoke on many of the subjects covered in his 2019 bestseller The Ride of a Lifetime and mentioned plans for a new book focusing on crisis leadership. In his retirement, Iger is planning to spend more time relaxing with his family and working with start-ups as a mentor and advisor.
He sees himself as a lifelong learner, something instilled in him from his upbringing, and plans to use his business savvy in guiding new leaders. When tech journalist Kara Swisher questioned Iger about ever returning to Disney or another company as an executive, Iger said such notions were “ridiculous”. He said if he wanted to run a company, he would still be with Disney.
During his 15 years as CEO, Iger led several large acquisitions, including Marvel, Lucasfilm, Maker Studios, Fox, and Pixar among others, and when asked by the audience, Iger told the crowd that he had tried not to rank them in terms of success, but the Pixar deal is what gained him the board’s confidence to execute several more multi-million and billion dollar dealings.
Bob Iger on when he left The Walt Disney Company when he did
Iger’s relationship with Steve Jobs heavily influenced Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, the distribution of Disney content on Apple products, and the ultimate acquisition of George Lucas’s Star Wars universe; but what was of the utmost importance to him was their close friendship that left a mark on Iger’s life and ways of thinking. Iger remembered Jobs as an equal left- and right-brained person who was a natural lover of storytelling and able to see even the finest details in the process of creation.
Iger resists a pessimistic worldview and seeks to lead optimistically. The internet, for all it is worth, can be a great divider or uniter in the eyes of Iger. What he did remind us all though is that despite all of the technological change and advancement, the vision of Walt Disney remains the same.
Faith, hope, magic, love, and family all exist throughout time, and today Disney undertakes the incorporation of these steadfast beliefs and values into new stories that reflect the worlds and cultures in which Disney hopes to make an impact. And with leaders like Iger to look to in this process of change, we can all be inspired to see the moments of magic in our own stories.
Bob Iger on the Future of Streaming for Creators
In taking questions from Richmonders in the Altria Theater and watching from home, Bob Iger noted:
- He feels very connected to the acquisition of Pixar, as its success solidified Disney’s business strategy and preeminence.
- In considering the international implications of doing business abroad as a quintessential US company, Disney had to balance US interests with international values. Iger stated that just as any process, compromises are made, and for a company to be truly global, compromises often need to conform to the markets they are operating in.
- Reflecting on the labor market shifts of the moment Iger believes that we should address wages and generally helping people. Disney offered staff the opportunity to further their education enabling opportunities for higher earnings. Iger believes that while companies cannot be responsible for all of their employee’s problems, they must be mindful of the impact they have on these people’s lives.
- Every single day of his working career was fun. He got to witness Imagineers designing new theme park attractions from within VR headsets, watch Black Panther change culture forever, and open a theme park in Shanghai that brought the joy of Disney into a whole new market and culture.
- Iger doesn’t believe in superpowers, but if he did, he would believe in his incredible work ethic and ability to never complain while staying curious. He does wish he could gain the skill of painting, much like former President George W. Bush has done in his own retirement.
- Iger doesn’t have a favorite Theme Park ride per se but he loves the Avatar-themed ride Flight of Passage where riders take a fictional banshee into the fantastical world of Pandora. He also remarked on the new Star Wars rides at Galaxy’s Edge, and the classic Pirates of the Caribbean ride which was overhauled in his time to be a more family-appropriate attraction.
- Bob Iger’s favorite classic Disney character is Tinkerbell. In the world of Pixar, it’s Buzz Lightyear and Woody. In the Star Wars galaxy, Iger admires Yoda. And as far as superheroes go, Black Panther holds a special place in Bob Iger’s heart partially because of the film’s tremendous cultural reception, and also the unfortunate early passing of actor Chadwick Boseman.
- Iger reflected on a touching moment when he gave Stan Lee a service award for his 75 years of working for Marvel. Iger greatly admired the attention to detail that he displayed until the very end of his career. The two of them discussed the future of Marvel and how the past can play into the present-day iterations of this vast collection of characters.
- When asked about the future of the Metaverse, Iger recalled the simple game of Club Penguin pioneering its way into the Metaverse many years ago, but today it looks much different than animated penguins in igloos. Iger believes there will be more than one metaverse, and the key to maintaining these spaces will be moderating and monitoring online behavior.
- In a world that doesn’t look like Walt’s, Iger remembers what remains the same. Optimism, hope, family, love – they all matter to our stories just as much, especially if we present these values in modern ways, part of which is through modern devices like iTunes and streaming. Iger believes in making things for the worlds and cultures that it wishes to participate in, and one way to go about that is by having diverse casting and creative teams who reflect the types of people a story wishes to reach, like the all-Hispanic cast of the most recent Disney/Pixar animated release, Encanto.
Bob Iger on the Creative Technological Innovation of Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Walt Disney
“Mr. Iger was a fantastic choice for the Forum audience – how fortunate to have him join us so shortly after retiring from Disney. Of course Disney is an institution, but I came away with much deeper appreciation of the journey and transformation he led as CEO – right leader, right vision, right time – and perfect time to be with us in Richmond. Fascinating individual – I could have gone all night with this event!”– Subscriber Comment
ABout Bob Iger
Robert A. Iger is the former Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company and Chairman of the Board of Directors. He assumed the role of Executive Chairman in February 2020, having served as Chief Executive Officer since 2005. As Executive Chairman, Mr. Iger directs the Company’s creative endeavors, while leading the Board and providing the full benefit of his experience, leadership and guidance.
Over his 15 years leading the Company, Mr. Iger built Disney into one of the world’s largest and most admired media and entertainment companies, while focusing on the three fundamental pillars of his strategic vision: generating the best creative content possible; fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology; and expanding into new markets around the world.
As CEO, Mr. Iger expanded on Disney’s rich history of unforgettable storytelling with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012) and 21st Century Fox (2019), as well as the landmark 2016 opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in Mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort; and the release of a number of record-setting films including Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, Disney’s Frozen and Frozen 2, and the groundbreaking movie Marvel’s Black Panther. Always one to embrace new technology, Mr. Iger has made Disney an industry leader through its creative content offerings across multiple platforms, most recently leveraging cutting edge direct-to-consumer technology with the highly successful launch of the Disney+ streaming service in November 2019 and ESPN+ in 2018.
During Mr. Iger’s tenure, The Walt Disney Company was recognized as one of the “Most Reputable Companies” in both America and the world by Forbes magazine (2006-2019); one of the “Best Employers” in both America and the world by Forbes (2019 and 2018, respectively); one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune magazine (2009- 2021); and as one of the “World’s Most Respected Companies” by Barron’s (2009-2017).
Mr. Iger assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company in October 2005, and was elected Chairman in 2012. From 2000-2005, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Iger officially joined the Disney senior management team in 1996 as Chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group and in 1999 was given the additional responsibility of President, Walt Disney International. In that role, Mr. Iger expanded and coordinated Disney’s presence outside of the United States, establishing the blueprint for the Company’s international growth today. As Chairman of the ABC Group, Mr. Iger oversaw the broadcast television network and station group, cable television properties, and radio and publishing businesses and also guided the complex merger between Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company. During Mr. Iger’s years with ABC, he obtained hands-on experience in every aspect of the television business—including news, sports, and entertainment—as well as in program acquisition, rights negotiations, and business affairs. He began his career at ABC in 1974.
Mr. Iger has been named TIME magazine’s Businessperson of the Year (2019); one of the “World’s Most Powerful People” by Forbes (2018); one of the “Top Gun CEOs” by Forbes (2009); one of Fortune magazine’s “25 Most Powerful People in Business” (2006, 2007); one of the “Best CEOs” by Institutional Investor magazine (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011); MarketWatch CEO of the Year (2006); and “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive (2014).
Mr. Iger was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in January 2020, and the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2015. He serves on the boards of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Perfect Day; and as chairman of the capital campaign for the new Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum in Los Angeles. In 2012, Mr. Iger became a member of the Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, which recognizes some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders.
Mr. Iger is the author of the New York Times Best Seller The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, published in 2019. He is a graduate of Ithaca College.
About Kara Swisher
Kara Swisher is the host of Sway, Editor-At-Large of Recode, former host of the Recode Decode and Pivot podcasts, weekly contributing Opinion writer for the New York Times and executive producer of the Code conference.
Considered the top reporter in the tech game, Swisher has been reporting on the industry since the early 1990s. She was there when Amazon was looking for its first headquarters in Seattle, when Google was in its garage, and when Netflix was just a small startup. Once called Silicon Valley’s most feared but revered journalist by New York magazine, Swisher has established herself as the oracle of the tech world with unrivaled access to the industry’s most significant leaders.
Swisher wanted to be a spy when she was younger. However, her ability to disarm the subject, dissect the truth, and deliver judgment were not wasted when she became a journalist. Swisher’s reporting style is both strategic and revealing. As the host of her award-winning podcast shows, Sway and Pivot, Swisher interviews tech execs, politicians, and celebrities about their big ideas and how they’re changing our world. Through enlightening conversations with people like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and many more, the show uncovers and explains how our digital world is changing and how it changes us.
Swisher is also the author of aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web, published by Times Business Books in July 1998. The sequel, There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future, was published in the fall of 2003 by Crown Business Books.