Bob Iger details relationship with Steve Jobs and ‘the Apple merger that wasn’t’ in new book

In the near future, Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, is going to have a book published that details his life as chief executive of one of the biggest companies in the world for over a decade.

That book will also talk about Apple’s co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs. The two had a close relationship over the years, one so powerful that the two could “talk about anything”, according to Iger, and a friendship that would ultimately save two companies.

Vanity Fair has several different excerpts from the upcoming book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. In this report, though, the publication focuses primarily on Steve Jobs and the relationship between the two, how it impacted the eventual acquisition of Pixar by Disney, and even the idea that, if Jobs were still alive, a merger between the two companies wouldn’t be completely off the table.

Let’s start with that. Iger admits that with every major successful move by Disney, he wishes Jobs were still around. He says he can still have conversations with Jobs in his head, the same ones he knows they’d be having in life, if he had not passed away. What’s more, Iger admits that if Jobs were still around, the two would have conversations about combining the two companies:

With every success the company has had since Steve’s death, there’s always a moment in the midst of my excitement when I think, I wish Steve could be here for this. It’s impossible not to have the conversation with him in my head that I wish I could be having in real life. More than that, I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously.

Before all of that, though, Iger reignited his friendship with Jobs by praising the iPod — one of Apple’s most successful devices. At the time, Iger wanted to create something like an “iTunes platform for television”, something that could be called “iTV”, maybe. It turned out that, like in many things, Iger and Jobs were already very nearly on the same page:

I’d been thinking about the future of television, and believed it was only a matter of time before we would be accessing TV shows and movies on our computers. I didn’t know how fast mobile technology was going to evolve (the iPhone was still two years away), so what I was imagining was an iTunes platform for television, “iTV,” as I described it. Steve was silent for a while, and then finally said, “I’m going to come back to you on this. I’m working on something I want to show you.

After that, Jobs would unveil the video iPod, and Jobs asked Iger to put Disney content on it. Iger agreed, and that only bolstered the friendship.

Iger then talks about the moment Jobs told him the cancer was spreading, which took place in 2006. That was just before Disney was set to announce the acquisition of Pixar, and Iger points out how tough it was to be dealing with both things –one so negative, the other so positive– at the same time:

He told me the cancer was now in his liver and he talked about the odds of beating it. He was going to do whatever it took to be at his son Reed’s high school graduation, he said. When he told me that was four years away, I felt devastated. It was impossible to be having these two conversations–about Steve facing his impending death and about the deal we were supposed to be closing in minutes–at the same time.

The full report from Vanity Fair is absolutely worth a read. But if you prefer to read the book itself, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is scheduled to launch on September 23 of this year.

In related news, Bob Iger just resigned from Apple’s board of directors with the impending launch of Apple’s and Disney’s competing streaming services, Apple TV+ and Disney+.