Disney CEO Bob Iger has spent a lot of time lately looking back on his 14-year stint leading one of the world’s preeminent media and entertainment companies. On Thursday, MasterClass announced that Iger will teach a course on business strategy and leadership he’s learned.
In an exclusive clip from the class, Iger revisits a conversation he and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had that led to one of Disney’s most salient acquisitions: Pixar.
“I called Steve Jobs late one afternoon in late September, early October of 2005. I said, ‘Steve, I’ve got a crazy idea for you’… Steve loved crazy ideas,” Iger recalled.
Iger’s MasterClass will also explore some of the other big acquisitions Disney has made under Iger.
Iger’s MasterClass is now available at MasterClass.com, which offers classes in leadership, cooking, photography, writing, performance, and more. Iger joins more than 65 other influential instructors, such as Annie Leibovitz, Serena Williams, Anna Wintour, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Herbie Hancock.
“Bob is one of the best CEOs in the world. He’s a master strategist and leads with the utmost integrity,” David Rogier, co-founder and CEO of MasterClass, said in a statement. “If you want to lead or understand how the best do, you have to take this class. In addition to the practical lessons, Bobs explains the strategy behind Disney’s most momentous initiatives, from the Pixar and Marvel acquisitions to building Disney+.”
Iger remembers being “incredibly nervous” to be pitching the idea of Disney buying Pixar. Jobs became a majority shareholder as well as chairman of the Pixar board in 1986.
“Steve said, ‘Tell me more about your crazy idea.’ And I said, ‘I’ve been thinking about the need to fix Disney animation, I don’t have any great solutions. The one idea that keeps coming back to me is the notion of buying Pixar,” Iger recalled. “‘You’ve got the great talent and the great technology, we’ve got the great legacy that is Disney’ and there was a pause — I was getting more sweaty by the minute — and Steve said, ‘It’s not the craziest idea I’ve ever heard.'”
A couple of days later, Iger flew to meet Jobs in Northern California. They convened in a board room with a whiteboard that Iger remembers being 50-feet long — though he confesses it was probably only 10-feet — and began making a pros and cons list for Disney buying Pixar.
“There were about three pros and about 20 cons,” Iger said. “I said, ‘Well I guess this isn’t going to happen.’ And he said to me, ‘Why do you conclude that?’ I said, ‘Well look at the board, the cons outweigh the pros to such an extreme,’ it seemed like it was a non-starter. And Steve said, ‘No I’m looking at these pros and I think they far outweigh the cons.’
“Steve’s mind was just incredible in that he had an ability to kind of cut through it all and really look at the essence of something,” Iger continued. “And he said that the pros here were that both Pixar and Disney would thrive and would be better off together than separate.”
Disney bought Pixar for a little more than $7 billion in 2006. In the 14 years since Disney bought Pixar, the animation studio’s films have grossed a combined $14.4 billion at box offices around the world, according to data from ComScore. Last year “Incredibles 2” grossed more than $1 billion as Disney’s film studio earned roughly $10 billion in revenue and the overall company’s revenue hit $59.4 billion.
Pixar was the first of Disney’s major acquisitions, which include Marvel, Lucasfilm, BAMTech, and most recently, Fox. All four have helped the global media and entertainment company to, earlier this week, launch its new streaming service, Disney+.
Iger has presided over Disney during one of the company’s most fruitful periods, sitting at the helm for 14 years. As his tenure approaches what he’s promised is the end — his current contract is set to expire at the end of 2021 — Iger appears to be preparing for life after Disney.
“I’ve had some great teachers and have learned many lessons,” Iger said in a statement. “With my MasterClass, I want to give back and impart what I’ve learned throughout my career. I’ll share insights into a number of things, including how Disney — and our great brands — operate, core leadership attributes, managing creativity and creative processes, creating a strategy and taking big risks.”
Watch the trailer for Iger’s MasterClass below: