Disney CEO Bob Iger may lose his seat on Apple’s board due to conflict of interest

According to Bloomberg, Disney CEO Bob Iger’s seat on Apple’s board of directors could be at risk because Apple’s streaming TV service product slated for launch later this year could easily turn the two friendly companies which share a board connection into fierce competitors.

This is potentially interesting if you remember that Iger was a close friend of Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs. He even appeared on stage at an Apple event nine years ago to announce that Disney would be the first Hollywood major to sell movies and TV shows through iTunes.

From the Bloomberg report:

Apple’s recent proxy statements said the company has ‘arms-length commercial dealings’ with Disney, including digital services content licensing agreements.

But the filings added that Iger doesn’t have ‘a material direct or indirect interest’ in those deals. That could change as both companies launch streaming services that compete with each other.

I think this is a question of “when”, not “if”.

According to John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School, Disney and Apple might have to “recognize that they will become active competitors in the near future.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson:

In some ways they’ll be competitive, but in other ways it is possible they will be partners if there is some sort of live television integration.

In August 2017, Disney announced it would pull all content from Netflix ahead of its own video-streaming service that should arrive sometime in 2019. Dubbed Disney+, it’ll encompass family-friendly content from Disney’s rich library of movies and TV shows, including acquired properties like Star Wars, Marvell and even Jobs’s former animation studio Pixar.

Apple’s service could be unveiled at an event on March 25, incorporating a slate of original TV shows and movies, as well as add-on content from providers like Showtime and Starz.

Should the service cause Disney’s chief executive to leave the board, it would not be the first time a major tech executive was pushed off Apple’s board over conflict of interests.

Google’s Eric Schmidt had had a seat on Apple’s board from 2006 to 2009, when he had to resign over the increasingly fierce rivalry between the two firms in mobile and Schmidt’s “potential conflicts of interest,” as Apple’s press release framed it.

And after Schmidt left the Apple board, Jobs spared no words saying his “effectiveness” was “diminished” and he had to “recuse himself from even larger portions” of meetings.

Following Jobs’s passing on October 5, 2011, Apple on November 15 named Iger to its board of directors, a position he has been holding ever since. Iger is the guy who was responsible for turning Steve Jobs into Disney’s largest shareholder after the Mickey Mouse house bought Pixar in a deal worth $4.7 billion.

As part of the deal, Jobs became a board member of Disney. Following Jobs’s death, his Disney shares were transferred to a trust run by his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.

In February 2017, the Jobs family cut their Disney stake in half.

As Laurene Powell’s Disney holdings fell to less than five percent, she is no longer required to reveal her transactions and could basically sell all of them without publicly disclosing. She owned 2.5 percent of Disney, according to a regulatory filing in early 2017.

Photo top of post: Steve Jobs and Bob Iger at Apple’s September 2005 event announcing that Disney movies would debut on iTunes Store.