Bob Iger Skirts Fox Questions, Ponders Political ‘Polarization’ at Vanity Fair Summit Kickoff

Bob Iger
Stewart Cook/Variety/Shutterstock

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger played a game of show, not tell, to kick off Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Iger, having an atypically visible week following his Time magazine cover drop, sat for the first conversation of a two-day leadership conference hosted by the magazine — a wide-ranging chat that focused more on his morning routine and “Lion King” footage than Disney’s tremendous task of ingesting Fox’s film and TV assets.

“I’ve worked for some folks over the years, and I’ve studied others like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs who believed ‘no risk, no reward,'” Iger told historian Doris Kearns Goodwin when asked if he “walks around the carpet at night” worrying about his decision-making.

As a clear picture of Fox-under-Disney leadership emerges, and an inevitable avalanche of layoffs and paradigm shifts loom, the 67-year-old CEO focused instead on the legacy of Disney as a storyteller.

“One thing in studying Walt, he really believed in what he was doing,” Iger told Goodwin. “It takes the event of risk off the table.”

He then turned the tables on the historian and author (“Leadership in Turbulent Times”), who is so affectionate with the clubhouse of U.S. presidents that she referred to the leaders as “my guys.”

Seeming to reference the events surrounding the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Iger said we’ve been watching “an endless march toward polarization in our country. In the last two weeks, that polarization is complete.”

Goodwin said both leadership and the citizenry needed to “not accept that what we’re seeing is the norm. [A culture of] alternative facts, untruth, lies. To not accept that that’s a healthy political system.”

Talk shifted to Iger’s habits (4:15 a.m. wake-up time, no screens or reading before his workout) and thoughts about his own retirement.

“I have not obsessed about my legacy. I have been given this wonderful opportunity,” he said, recalling watching Mickey Mouse on a black-and-white TV set as a child.

“I inherited, or was handed, this storied company that was a quintessential 20th century company,” said Iger, whose focus now is “turning it into a real 21st century company to shine bright in a new world.”