The One Skill That Bob Iger Used To Save Disney From Sinking In 2003

Nicole Sudjono

A look into Bob Iger's decision took Disney to another level.

“It’s a shame Disney won’t be participating in Pixar’s Future Successes.” Steve Jobs 2004, cited from Robert Iger

Imagine the famous legendary inventor, founder of Apple, who said to the whole world that your company sucks. How would you have handled it?

Meet Bob Iger, the former CEO of Disney who saved the company. He managed to repair Disney’s relationship back with Steve Jobs and used the same tactic that led him to buy the big four studios: Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox. He did this one thing that saved Disney, and everyone can do it. That is if they have the guts for it.

How Disney Nearly Sunk Their Ship

Back then, under the CEO was Michael Eisner. He was responsible for bringing Disney back up after Walt passed away, including bringing early Disneyland Parks. He was great at first, but like the saying goes….

You either die a hero or live long enough to be a villain.

In the early 2000s, Disney was in trouble of:

  1. Mismanagement
  2. Bad relationships with everyone, even Steve Jobs
  3. Nearly sold to Comcast for $54 billion
  4. Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, started a campaign “Save Disney”

The core of the problem is that he was unclear to the company. There was a lack of communication which led to bad relationships and the crumbling of an organization. It’s like watching your parents fight, you as their child will know something is not right with the family. Even Roy Disney didn’t know where this guy was going, that was one of the reasons why he started the campaign. Then came Robert Iger in 2005, who became the new CEO in the midst of all this chaos.

What did Bob bring to the table?

According to his book and from his interview with Oprah Winfrey, the moment he became the new CEO of Disney, he straight up asked during the Board meeting…

“What about buying Pixar?”

This was an insane and mad idea back then. The Board members weren’t exactly on the boat with him because 1) Pixar wasn’t for sale back then, and 2) Steve would never agree to it.But Bob argued again that purchasing Pixar will save Disney animation and altogether, bring Disney back up on its feet. After tremendous discussions, Bob was given a yellow light to explore this idea.And he straight up called Steve Jobs and asked whether he’s interested in selling Pixar. Like most people, they thought that he will reject the idea.But Steve was willing to listen to his idea. So he asked Bob to come over to his office to further discuss this.

The Discussion For The Deal

Bob said that Steve indirectly told him that he wasn’t interested in Disney buying Pixar by putting a huge list to him on his whiteboard on why making this deal will be a bad idea. He even put one in caps lock…


However, there is one thing that Bob did that Michael Eisner failed back then with Pixar…

Clear communication

Though Bob didn’t write all of what he wrote the good side on buying Pixar, the two he wrote was:

  1. Pixar will save Disney
  2. The creative directors will be able to paint on a bigger canvas

Bob said Steve isn’t the type of person who would let huge negativities stop few positivities. And because Bob was very clear about this idea and even willing to visit the Pixar studio for a better understanding of them, Steve was thrilled with him. In the end, Steve agreed to do this deal. Bob and Steve even became great friends after the acquisition until the day he passed. Today, Disney Pixar produces so much high-quality and blockbuster content.

The Power of Clear Communication

As you can see here, this simple skill created a huge impact on anyone around you. Today, Disney managed to bring tremendous success with Pixar.Bob’s clear communication also helped him with Marvel and Star Wars, especially during the making of Black Panther where many people were doubting him that it will not work, but he made sure to the team working on the project that it will work.The point is, clear communication offers a lot on the table. It helps:1) Builds Trust & RelationshipSteve and Bob weren’t close before he pitched the dead. But when he delivered his idea clearly, even the legendary inventor would agree to sell his company to Disney.The emotional part is that Steve was willing to tell that his cancer came back again. Bob was one of the few people who knew about this but to know that Steve was trusting him to let him know proves that Bob can be trusted.

2) Clear Direction

Steve trusted Bob because he can tell that he had a clear direction on where both companies are going and aiming. We can tell that Bob continued to use this skill as we can see how the company was able to acquire even bigger studios and led them to success.

3) Increase Engagement

Disney is filled with so many passionate and talented people. Nearly every content they released managed to become blockbuster movies or become a pop-cultural phenomenon like Black Panther and Avengers Endgame.This proves that the people there are very engaged in their work. One of the things Bob Iger likes to do after seeing the end of the product is to give feedback. He was willing to pour out his thoughts to the team and let them know about their work.Thanks to that action, many of their movies became near to perfect movies.Throughout his leadership, Bob Iger changed Disney a lot. Just that simple clear communication brought an entire company into an empire.


In 2021, Bob Iger is now retired and his role was handed over to Bob Chapek. How his directions for the company will go, we'll have to see for the next few years.

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