Every three years, Bob Iger seems to announce something big. Something industry-changing big.
Under his leadership as chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., he bought Pixar in 2006; Marvel in 2009; and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” franchise in 2012.
They’ve been the kind of multibillion-dollar deals that have pushed Disney to focus on franchises that play across the world but also boost the rest of Disney’s divisions to record results and the stock to all-time highs.
As he receives the Milestone Award from the Producers Guild of America this year, Iger is overseeing the construction of a massive new theme park in Shanghai, its largest after Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; the addition of an “Avatar” land inside Animal Kingdom; and the roll out of MyMagic+, an innovative wristband-based technology that will significantly enhance the theme park experience for guests.
He’s also pushing the studio to breathe new life into “Star Wars” with sequels and spinoffs starting in 2015 and “Indiana Jones” after that.
In fact, 2015 could be the studio’s biggest year at the box office with Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man,” George Clooney’s “Tomorrowland,” “Cinderella,” Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” and “Inside Out,” plus “Star Wars: Episode VII.”
Iger, who has said he starts his day at 4:30 a.m. no matter where he is in the world, is glued to his gadgets and captivated by technology and new digital platforms. He tends to steer away from potential executive hires who aren’t, believing a lack of curiosity in technology could leave them — and the company — behind as the industry continually changes with advancements in mobile and online distribution opportunities.
Despite the high-profile purchases, Iger — a native of Long Island who attended Ithaca College — isn’t allowing himself or the rest of Disney to rest on its laurels.
Disney may have had one of its best years in 2013, but “success can breed all kinds of other behavior that causes companies to behave in ways that aren’t necessarily best ingredients for achieving more success,” Iger said at a UCLA Anderson School of Management gala in November. “For instance, with success comes arrogance. That’s typically the death of success. With success comes pretension and risk aversion, because you’re working too hard to protect the very success or the value that you’ve already created. You have to really avoid allowing the success to get in the way of creating more of it.”