The Ride of a Lifetime

By Robert Iger

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2020 by Michael C. Gray

The Ride of a Lifetime tells Bob Iger's journey through his career and how he became CEO of The Walt Disney Company. As part of his story, Iger shares his philosophy as a business leader.

Bob Iger has had big shoes to fill as the CEO of The Walt Disney Company. First, there is the legend and iconic personality of Walt Disney. It's really impossible for anyone to fill his shoes in the eyes of the public. Walt Disney's name is synonymous with Family Entertainment worldwide. Second, Iger succeeded Michael Eisner as CEO. Eisner did a great job reviving The Walt Disney Company, leaving his own mark on the company while respecting Walt's legacy.

On July 1, 1974, Bob Iger joined ABC Television as a studio supervisor, thanks to a connection from his uncle Bob. Then he quickly rose through the ranks working at ABC Sports, known for powerhouse programming on Monday Night Football and Wide World of Sports. Iger had the opportunity of working with Roone Arledge, who ran ABC Sports.

In March 1985, Iger was promoted to vice president at ABC Sports when he was age 34. ABC was sold to Capital Cities Communications, "a minnow that ate a whale." In 1986, Iger was again promoted to senior vice president for programming and charged with creating a blueprint for all of ABC sports programming.

In February 1988, Roone Arledge was executive producer and Iger was the senior programming executive for the Calgary Winter Olympic Games. Shortly after the Games, Iger was promoted to the number two executive at ABC TV and then president of ABC Entertainment. On January 1, 1993, he became president of ABC. In September 1994, he became president and COO of Capital Cities/ABC.

In 1995, Michael Eisner, then CEO of The Walt Disney Company negotiated the acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC (including ESPN.) In December 1999, Michael Eisner promoted Iger to be president and chief operating officer of The Walt Disney Company.

On September 30, 2005, Michael Eisner left Disney after a shareholder revolt, nicknamed "Save Disney", led by Roy Disney, Walt Disney's nephew, and Bob Iger became the president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Iger developed three priorities for the company. (1) Devote most of the company's time and capital to the creation of high-quality branded content. (2) Embrace technology to the fullest extent by using it to enable the creation of higher quality products, and then to reach more consumers in more modern, more relevant ways. (3) Become a truly global company.

Among Iger's other accomplishments, he successfully negotiated with Steve Jobs and George Lucas to entrust their "babies," Pixar and Lucasfilm, to Disney. He oversaw opening Disney parks overseas. He also negotiated the acquisition of Marvel Studios and 21st Century Fox, and oversaw the creation of the Disney + streaming service.

Many Disney fans believe that Disney has lost its charm as a family entertainment company and become "The Evil Empire." We need to bear in mind that Walt Disney is gone, requiring new leadership if the company is going to survive. Disney was in financial difficulty when Iger became CEO. He has built the company into a strong, diversified operation, responding to what customers want, while honoring Walt Disney's legacy.

Bob Iger's career has indeed been quite a ride. If you are fascinated with Disney and business leadership, you should study The Ride of a Lifetime.

Buy it on Amazon: The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

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