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Largest entertainment company ever? Return of Disney boss Bob Iger sparks Apple merger speculation

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Largest entertainment company ever? Return of Disney boss Bob Iger sparks Apple merger speculation

As Bob Iger returns for his second stint in charge of Disney, some insiders believe he is angling to be the last CEO the company ever has by facilitating a blockbuster sale to tech giant Apple.

The move would likely result in the largest entertainment company in the world if it is deemed legal by the US government, who have recently cracked down on antitrust cases. 

‘He’s going to sell the company,’ predicted a Disney source who has worked with Iger previously. 

‘This is the pinnacle deal for the ultimate dealmaker,’ they added.

Iger has had a long history of acquisitions and deals, starting with their purchase of Steve Jobs-led animation studio Pixar in 2006, followed by Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm – owner of Star Wars – in 2012. 

The company’s board of directors tabbed Iger to ‘replace’ former CEO Bob Chapek Sunday night. 

While Disney would be a behemoth to purchase, likely costing around $200 billion, Apple are one of the only company’s in the world to have that cash ready to spend. 

Incoming Disney CEO Bob Iger, who previously served as the company’s boss, is said to be considering a merger with Apple

Iger was great friends with late Apple visionary Steve Jobs and built a personal and professional relationship with him starting with Disney's deal to acquire Jobs-led Pixar

Iger was great friends with late Apple visionary Steve Jobs and built a personal and professional relationship with him starting with Disney’s deal to acquire Jobs-led Pixar

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he initially chose not to speak out against Florida's Don't Say Gay bill to balance the needs of customers and employees

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he initially chose not to speak out against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill to balance the needs of customers and employees

The California tech titans currently have a cash stockpile of around $48 billion, and when investments are included, the total sum reaches over $200 billion. 

Apple already seems interested in the kind of product Disney would sell them – they have put increased efforts to stake a claim in the streaming world with Apple TV shows like Ted Lasso and Severance. 

‘I think he’d welcome it — he’d be the last CEO of Disney,’ a former top Disney executive told TheWrap.

They also noted that the two companies could mutually benefit as they a similar ‘brand identity.’

Meanwhile, the company’s poor performance under the outgoing Chapek has been blamed on a variety of factors – disappointing financial results, large losses in the streaming business and Chapek’s mishandling of the company’s response to Ron DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay bill. 

The bill limits LGBTQ discussions in Florida schools for students in the third grade and below.

The shakeup comes as an abrupt return to power for Iger, 71, who had served as Disney’s head exec for more than 15 years before he stepped down in February 2020.

He later also stepped down as chairman of the board at the end of last year, receiving compensation of $45.9 million.

Susan Arnold, Chairman of the Board, announced the change in a statement Sunday night, in which she thanked Chapek, 62.

‘We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,’ the statement read.

Iger also shared a statement of his own about his excitement at returning – but made absolutely no mention of Chapek, fueling rumors of a bitter rift between the former friends.

However, instead of rescuing the company’s flailing bottom lines, Chapek’s not-so-glittering tenure as CEO saw the company’s profits fall even further over the past year – when many experts posited it would recover.

Since losing more than $10billion during the pandemic, shares of the company have fallen about 41 percent so far this year, as of Friday’s close.

The stock hit a 52-week low on November 9, less than two weeks before the company’s shock announcement, where brass asserted that Iger ‘is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period.’

Iger has worked for Disney for more than four decades, with 15 of those years coming in the company’s CEO role.

But considering how stringent the federal government has been recently around invoking antitrust laws, a deal between the two companies may be deemed illegal. 

A federal judge recently blocked a bid from publishing giant Penguin Random House to purchase rival Simon & Schuster, in a $2.175 billion deal that would have seen the two mammoth companies merge as one. 

The judge agreed with the Justice Department that the joining of two of the world’s biggest publishers could ‘lessen competition’ for ‘top-selling books.’

A similar conclusion could be made from this proposed deal, as Disney and all of its acquisitions being acquired by one of the world’s biggest tech companies could lessen competition.

Apple's recent stock price - considering how stringent the federal government has been around invoking antitrust laws, a deal between the two companies may be deemed illegal

Apple’s recent stock price – considering how stringent the federal government has been around invoking antitrust laws, a deal between the two companies may be deemed illegal

Disney's poor performance under the outgoing Chapek has been blamed on a variety of factors including losses from streaming

Disney’s poor performance under the outgoing Chapek has been blamed on a variety of factors including losses from streaming

Aerial view of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California - Apple already seems interested in the kind of product Disney would sell them, putting increased resources into streaming

Aerial view of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California – Apple already seems interested in the kind of product Disney would sell them, putting increased resources into streaming

But the government has not won every antitrust fight it has picked so far, and was handed losses across several different industries. 

The DOJ lost its bid to block a major U.S. sugar manufacturer, U.S. sugar, from acquiring its rival Imperial Sugar Co., one of the largest sugar refiners in the nation. The prosecutors signaled that they intended to appeal the decision.

They also were stymied in their effort to block the roughly $8 billion acquisition by UnitedHealth Group, which runs the largest U.S. health insurer, of Change Healthcare, a healthcare technology company.

The DOJ also has been battling American Airlines and JetBlue in an antitrust trial in federal court in Boston, challenging their regional partnership in the Northeast, which the government calls a de facto merger.

Iger’s relationship with Apple goes back even further than an opportunity in the streaming space. He was great friends with late Apple visionary Steve Jobs and built a personal and professional relationship with him. 

Jobs and Iger worked together to get the Pixar-Disney merger done, and Iger wrote about that being the start of a successful relationship in Vanity Fair. 

‘The ease and the speed with which we got the deal done, combined with the fact that it showed an admiration for Apple and its products, blew Steve’s mind,’ he said.

‘He told me he’d never met anyone in the entertainment business who was willing to try something that might disrupt his own company’s business model.

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