Opinion: Bob Iger Is The President You're Looking For
Robert Iger is the Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. He’s notorious in the industry as one of the best studio heads. With key achievements being the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, not to mention Shanghai Disney Resort, he will go down as Hollywood’s best negotiator. So it comes as little surprise that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he’s considering a presidential run in 2020.
He joined ABC in 1974 and was named Head of ABC Entertainment by ’89. He eventually became the head of ABC’s then parent company, Capital Cities/ABC, in 1994. The Walt Disney Company purchased Cap Cities/ABC in 1996, and Iger remained president until 1999, when he was promoted to President of Disney’s International operations. Just under a year later, he was promoted to President of the company, serving with, CEO, Michael Eisner. Following the infamous Save Disney campaign run by Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, Eisner stepped down in 2005. Disney’s board of directors named Iger CEO and President, a job he’s been serving since.
Robert Iger has had a successful run at Disney, which is more that can be said about Eisner. Iger made $DIS stock skyrocket when he announced he was acquiring Pixar for an incredible $7.4bn. It continued to rise when Iger mixed the creative team from Pixar with Disney Animation which led to hits such as Bolt, Tangled and of course, Frozen. He purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4bn, which was recouped by 2014 thanks to Marvel’s box office achievements. Most notably, Bob acquired Lucasfilm from George Lucas in 2012 for $4bn, getting both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Two of the most popular in the world. This was responsible for the creation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and The Last Jedi due to release Holiday 2017.
He's due to stay on as CEO until 2018. Disney are yet to find a successor, and when asked about the possibility of staying on longer, he said he’d be “open” to the idea.
A resignation in 2018 seems very timely for a presidential run. Though many of us were expecting a run for office, not many thought it would be for the biggest office of them all. It begs the question - is this going to work?
In many respects, running the Walt Disney Company is like running a country. It’s worth roughly $150bn overall, it owns and runs a plethora of businesses in hospitality, media entertainment and consumer products and owns the most valuable IPs on earth. Before Iger, it wasn’t really that way. So Bob has organised a company which is so big, it needs to train it’s next CEO from the inside. Many analysts agree, even saying that the only person qualified is a former president, who, even then, would need to watch from the side-lines for at least a year first. Disney has arguably a bigger global reach than any other conglomerate. Disney’s products are adopted in most of the world’s countries and are seen by billions. Disney’s parks and resorts in America, Europe and Asia are the most visited attractions in the world and Disney continues to smash record after record at the worldwide box office. Disney’s size and reach is almost impossible to comprehend. It’s the reason why most consider Iger the most important executive in Hollywood, possibly the only one qualified to run. The biggest argument is perhaps his latest and greatest achievement – Shanghai Disney Resort.
Robert Iger started by scouting locations in 1999 and negotiations started in 2001 with the Chinese government. Negotiations went well but were slowed down to help Hong Kong Disneyland grow in the hopes that it would help the Hong Kong’s tourism industry grow. The project was approved in 2009 and broke ground in 2011. The resort opened in June 2016, costing an overwhelming $5.5bn, paid for entirely by the Walt Disney Company. The resort is monumental as a partnership, not only between Disney and China, but the US and China. Then president, Barack Obama, even wrote a letter to Disney and the Chinese government congratulating them on the resort. China consider Disney, Iger in particular, as a key player in getting better trade between the two countries. Though Iger would most likely deny it, this is very political for them.
If Bob Iger was to run, he’d almost certainly run as a Democrat. He’s been a supporter and friend of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for years. Al Gore recently called Iger one of his closest friends. According to The Hollywood Reporter article, former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has been consulting him.
The likelihood of him winning the nomination is hard to tell. There’s a strong possibility that the grassroots socialism will rise within the Democratic Party again, where we may see Sen. Bernie Sanders run or even Sen. Elisabeth Warren. That being said, we’re seeing socialism being rejected across the political spectrum. Democrats may want another establishment-like figure to restore the country to it’s pre-Trump state before bringing in any radical left-wing ideas. After seeing how he’s supported Obama and Clinton, Robert Iger might very well fit that bill. He may be able to encapsulate the support of voters by using his history at Disney to his advantage. Showing how he has carried on Walt’s dream by opening two Disney parks in Asia and expanding the domestic Disney parks with Star Wars Land at Disneyland (Anaheim, CA), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Orlando, FL) and Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Orlando, FL). He’s created tens of thousands of jobs globally. He rebuilt Disney’s citizenship programme donating millions to causes like wish charities, children’s hospitals, schools and donating $1million to Orlando’s Emergency Action charity set up following the Pulse Shooting (Disney also gave hotel rooms as shelter and set up blood banks for Disney employees (cast members) to donate blood).
Donald Trump has proved that a businessman can take on the White House. However, Iger has no equivalent to the alt-right or nationalism to use to rally people together. Seeing his political history, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll want to bring universal healthcare or free college tuition fees. Though at the way things are going, America is going to want another Barack Obama-like president.
There’s a lot of pros and cons to this possible campaign. If Disney want to extend his tenure as CEO while they teach a new CEO, then we probably won’t see this campaign come to fruition. It’s hard to tell if he’ll be nominated especially if we see another split in the Democratic party. We don’t know how he’ll be perceived by the American public. But if it all goes well, you’ll have a diplomatic president who’s doubled the stock price of the mouse house, managed deals across the globe and is a renowned philanthropist. After following Disney for the last decade, I can safely say that, due to the reasons above, Robert Iger would make a fine candidate who’ll lead America as a true leader of the free world.