Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, has been part of The Walt Disney Company for a long time, but 2019, in particular, was a highlight for Iger’s career. In today’s world, there are many obstacles including, as TIME writes it, “Creativity is a messy affair, technology is an expensive, glitchy one, and business plans, like military campaigns, rarely survive the first battle.”
But, in 2019, Iger somehow managed to bring this all together into one amazing and successful year, especially when the odds were “against Big Business, Big Media and Big Tech”.
Overall, Iger transformed this enormous media company into an even bigger media and tech business, while also making sure that The Walt Disney Company kept their products beloved by everyone.
“This has been probably one of the most productive years we’ve had as a company in the 15 years that I’ve been in this job,” Iger said. “This time last year, we had not closed the deal for Fox, we had not opened up two Star Wars Lands, we had not launched Disney+. We had not closed the deal for control of Hulu.”
Iger was also not yet a best-selling author, but now, he has earned seven-figures from his newly released memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, which is actually going toward journalism scholarships.
Somehow, someway, Mr. Bob Iger managed all those tasks while still making other projects come to life. The highly anticipated film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, hasn’t even arrived yet and Walt Disney Studios has already released six of the eight most profitable movies in 2019 and has even broken records, being the first studio to earn $10 billion in the global box office.
And in addition to those numbers, Avengers: Endgame is officially the highest-grossing movie of all time, earning $2.8 billion globally.
On top of the films in 2019, Iger also helped introduce the Internet’s newest sensation, Baby Yoda, who actually holds a special place in Iger’s heart. In fact, the second Iger saw Baby Yoda, “his heart leaped.”
“As soon as those ears popped up from under the blanket, and the eyes, I knew,” Iger said about the first footage he saw of the new Internet sensation. In fact, Iger compares the feeling to when he was running ABC’s prime-time TV division and a certain 16-year old showed up on Growing Pains (He was referring to the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio). So it was pretty obvious what the next steps were with Baby Yoda, but Bob Iger had a different idea: No Baby Yoda merchandise (yet).
Speaking of Disney+, when it launched it had over 10 million people subscribed to the service by November 13 (which is only one day after its launch). As of right now, Disney+ is not a threat to its competition, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Google’s YouTube, but if Disney+ keeps it up, it does have the potential to knock out its competition.
“I think the Disney+ launch has been amazing,” says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who was on the company’s board from 2010 to 2018. “It’s a big risk, but Bob’s really good at understanding the landscape further out as well as executing a strategy. It’s rare to be able to do both.”
Of course, not everyone has celebrated Iger or his choices this past year and many express “Disney’s blending effect on the culture”. One in particular, which many of you may recall, is director Martin Scorsese, who wrote an excoriating New York Times op-ed in November that calls out MCU films. Scorsese accused the films of lacking “revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger.” He also claimed that the focus on MCU franchises was contributing to a situation that “was brutal and inhospitable to art”.
Iger, who, not before brushing the comments off, responded to Scorsese’s comments and called them “nasty” and “not fair to the people who are making the movies. If Marty Scorsese wants to be in the business of taking artistic risk, all power to him. It doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t art,” Iger said.
But for now, Iger is going to enjoy this moment and remain invulnerable. He has transformed The Walt Disney Company “from a stuffy media doyen into a sexy cultural force” and can go into retirement in 2021 with grace and accomplishments.
TIME actually asked which IP Iger would buy if in some fantasy world he could: Harry Potter, Gandalf or James Bond, in which, Iger smiled and responded with, “We’re not looking to buy anything right now, but I’ve always been a huge James Bond fan.”
You can read the full story on Bob Iger becoming TIME’s 2019 Businessperson of the Year, here.
Congratulations, Bob Iger.
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