Disney and Apple would’ve probably merged companies if Steve Jobs were still alive

Former Disney CEO believes his company would’ve merged with Apple if Steve Jobs were still alive, combining “great technology” with “great creativity” just as Steve liked.


  • Ex-Disney CEO Bob Iger provides a case for a merger of Apple and Disney
  • He thinks such a deal would’ve “gotten there” if Jobs were still alive
  • Iger never spoke with Jobs about merging their companies though

A photograph showing former Disney CEO Robert Iger and new CEO Bob Chapek standing next to each other and smiling warmly, with a Millennium Falcon dummy in the background

Steve Jobs liked everything Disney did

Steve Jobs, who after selling Pixar to Disney became its top individual shareholder with a seat on the board, liked Disney’s family-friendly brand a lot. “The intersection—one side liberal arts, one side technology,” Iger said. “That’s what made his heart sing.”

Iger told CNBC that any such potential deal between Apple and Disney likely would have “gotten there” if the legendary Apple co-founder were still alive. “I’m pretty convinced we would have had that discussion,” Iger said. “I think we would have gotten there.”

He said the same thing in his 2019 memoir chronicling his life as chief executive of one of the biggest companies in the world for over a decade, titled “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company”. In it, Iger expressed his belief that Apple and Disney “would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously,” if Jobs were still alive.

The problem with a potential merger of Apple and Disney

Disney and Apple do seem like a natural fit given their carefully cultivated, family-friendly brands and attractive products which capture people’s attention.

It’s not difficult to imagine a merger between Apple and Disney creating a powerful entertainment and technology conglomerate. But as things go with mergers, that’s hardly a guarantee that any potential merger between Disney and Apple would be better than the sum of its parts (case in point: the failed AOL/Time Warner merger).

How Disney snapped up Pixar

Before acquiring Pixar, Iger focused on building a strong personal relationship with Jobs to convince Apple’s then-CEO that he wouldn’t disappoint him after completing an acquisition. Read: How to manage streaming data usage for the Disney+ app

It’s development of a relationship. I didn’t do the deal myself, but it was singular in terms of the pursuit—one on one in some cases—being as candid as I possibly could be, and I think as authentic as I could be, and developing a relationship, even if it was developed over a relatively brief period of time.

And this on why make the deal in the first place.

What I wanted to do more than anything is, I wanted to send a signal to everybody at Disney that it was a new day, that we were more open-minded about expansion, in particular about partnerships. That creativity was the most important strategy for the company. And Pixar, at that point, exemplified original storytelling and quality and creativity at in its highest form.

The deal helped revitalize Disney’s own animation studio, CNBC notes in another post.

You look at “Frozen” and you look at “Moana” and you look at “Zootopia” and you look at “Wreck It Ralph” and you look at “Tangled” and the number of Academy Awards and the box-office success, and all of the intelecutal property that that created—generated. You know, it all was tied really, everything that we’ve done at Disney animation since then was tied to the Pixar acquisition.

As it turns out, Jobs had no objections to Disney’s integration of Pixar.

Once we did the deal, in fact, in the months before he died he came to—he and his wife, Laurene, came to our house. And Laurene and Steve and [Iger’s wife] Willow [Bay] and I sat down at a dinner, and he toasted to the deal we had done some years earlier, convinced that it was the right thing to do for Disney and for Pixar.

Pixar, Iger added, was “probably the best” acquisition he made during his tenure with Disney. Iger, who is now Disney’s chairman, is leaving the company at the end of December 2021. He led Disney from 2005 to 2020. In 2020, Iger stepped down as Disney’s CEO and Bob Chapek took the top job.